By Phillip Lentsch–
On Jan. 26 around 8:30 a.m., the U of L Speed Art Museum received a potential threat from an unspecified source. Students and faculty were cautioned to avoid the area for up to an hour that morning.
Louisville Metro Police spokesman Dwight Mitchell said a “nonspecific threat” led U of L to calling LMPD to the Speed Art Museum that morning. LMPD completed a sweep of the building with bomb dogs, but nothing was found.
This incident occurred about three weeks after LMPD received an anonymous threat against all educational institutions in the Louisville area on Jan. 8. Despite heightened security, JCPS reported that only 45 percent of its students attended class that day. Average school attendance is 93.6 percent.
In light of these recent events, U of L has taken many safety measures in order to proficiently inform and protect its students and staff. While protocol for these kinds of threats varies, there are some steps in the process that remain consistent.
“Immediate communication to all students is crucial in order to avoid these threats from escalating,” said U of L spokesperson John Drees. “For this particular threat, we evacuated the building and sent out a Rave alert telling all students to steer clear of the area. We also blocked off the alleyway on campus that leads to the museum, and shut down the parking garage.”
Communication professor Karen Freberg, who studies social media, believes that there are other ways to effectively inform students and staff of a shooting or bomb threat.
“Social media is one of the primary ways to communicate to key audiences in a time of crisis. While U of L has been putting in substantial efforts in their online presence and message strategy on Facebook, it is Twitter where people are looking for real-time updates in a crisis or tense situation,” said Freberg.
Many students said that the Rave alerts and social media updates were vital for ensuring their safety.
“I remember getting a Rave alert that morning while I was walking to campus” said sophomore Jacob Markert. “It was good to know that U of L and the police had the situation under control, because those kinds of threats are really unpredictable.”
No new information has been found on who issued the threat, or if they intend to release another one. While LMPD did not respond to repeated requests for a comment, ULPD Assistant Chief of Police Kenny Brown says an investigation is “still being held” between local police forces and federal authorities.
Currently, the Speed Art Museum has been operating on a normal schedule since being cleared by LMPD.