Howard University received its seventh bomb threat of the year on the night of Aug. 23 as students were ordered via a BisonSafe notification to evacuate Cook Hall at 11:13 p.m. At 10:55 p.m., the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) relayed the report of the call to Howard University Department of Public Safety (DPS), according to a university spokesperson.
The threat was made by a male caller who specifically named the address of Cook Hall, located on Fairmont Street, as the target, according to MPD.
In addition to app alerts, a fire alarm went off throughout the building to alert residents to evacuate immediately. Almost a dozen Metropolitan and Howard University police officers (DPS) surrounded Cook Hall to respond to the bomb threat at around 11:10 p.m..
After evacuating the building, students were guided away from Cook Hall as MPD and DPS closed all streets leading to the residence. For about 15 minutes, residents were crowded together across the street at the entrance of the School of Business. Afterward, students relocated to the Blackburn Multipurpose Building while some were allowed to stay with friends in other dorms, and others were on the Yard.
The Office of Residence Life and Cook Hall Residence Assistants declined to comment regarding their official evacuation procedure.
The Howard University Department of Public Safety tweeted an alert of the evacuation order at 11:22 p.m., and in a 12:07 a.m. tweet, noted how DPS and MPD were “conducting a search of the facility using human, animal, and mechanical explosive finding resources.”
At the time of the initial order, the university did not disclose the reason for evacuation. To this end, Symir Powell-Jenkins, a freshman marketing major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cook Hall resident, described how he and others did not know why they were evacuating.
“In my head, I thought it was just like a basic drill,” he said, “people were not running, they were just casually walking… I heard some things, but I was more so confused. I think everybody else was confused too – they were trying to figure out what was happening, like what was going on.”
However, one resident said he did not receive a notification because his phone was on ”Do Not Disturb.”
“I knew that there was an evacuation because one of my friends came into my room and told us,” Baughn Peoples-Hobson, a freshman history major from Windsor, Connecticut said. “You can’t really hear the fire alarms from inside your dorms if you have headphones on.”
Peoples-Hobson added that he did not take the threat seriously because of the series of similar bomb threats against Howard earlier this year. He did not want to leave the building, he said, because he knew it was “just a threat.”
Others took it more seriously.
“We know it’s a serious situation,” Grant Hill a Cook Hall resident and freshman honors finance major from Atlanta, Georgia said. “[DPS] definitely looked out for our safety.”
“We will never stop educating our students. We will never stop conducting research and generating important scholarship,” President Frederick said. “We will never stop revealing truths. And we will never stop providing invaluable and irreplaceable service to our communities.”
He added, “Any threats against us only serve to reinforce the importance of our work and strengthen our resolve to continue.”
President Frederick expressed his gratitude to DPS and MPD “who leapt into action to ensure the security of our campus when these threats were made.”
The university announced an “All Clear” at 1 a.m. the morning of Aug. 24, and students returned to the Cook Hall residence.
Many students agreed Howard University took appropriate measures during the threat. Kaleb Gallop, a freshman sociology major from Portsmouth, Virginia, said the evacuation plan went “smoothly.”
Other students said they would like to see some improvements on relocating students in case another emergency happens late at night.
“If they could improve anything they could have some sort of backup plan,” Hill said. “I know not everybody was lucky like me to have a friend. Maybe like a safe spot, so to speak. Just to have somewhat of a backup plan. I feel like that’s something I could do better, but they had it handled.”
The story is developing and The Hilltop will continue to update as new information emerges.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee