HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) – A campus-wide scare forces a local college to evacuate and raises questions about student safety.
Holyoke Community College was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a student threatened members of the school, but the evacuation didn’t go as smoothly as planned.
If you’ve ever been on the HCC campus, you know that there’s one giant road that loops around the school.
It’s the only way in and the only way out, so when you’ve just hundreds of students and staff trying to evacuate the campus at the same time, you can imagine this road gets pretty back up.
Gridlock as students wait to leave HCC after the school was evacuated after a violent threat to people on campus.
In fact, ABC40 found a number of students sitting in the parking, just waiting for the traffic to clear.
“We basically received a mass email and they told us that they had to evacuate the school because there was a gun threat, but nothing serious. They just want every student to be safe, so they just evacuated everyone from the school,” says Josue Pizarro, a student at the college.
Rosemarie Santana, another student, notes, “Some teachers came into the room saying school was evacuated, so I was a little nervous, you know, like what’s going on.”
Police say a little before noon, a male student made threats to both a family member in Springfield and people here on the HCC campus in Holyoke.
The school will not confirm if the suspect threatened to use a gun.
When HCC found out, they send a campus-wide evacuation notice.
“Because it appeared there might be a delay in actually locating the individual, a decision was made to evacuate the campus. Fortunately, after people started leaving the campus, the individual was apprehended, eliminating really the threat. At that point, people were on their way out,” says Bill Fogarty, the college’s Vice President of Administration and Finance.
But with so many people stuck on campus because of traffic, it obviously raised concerns about what would have happened had the suspect not been apprehended.
Fogarty adds, “How to get the cars out faster, how to stage people and try to minimize the gridlock. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a smooth way to evacuate this campus, especially at the height of a school day with so many people on campus.”
One potential solution the school is looking at is adding a fourth entryway in and out of campus.
When ABC40 got to campus Tuesday afternoon, we also observed nobody controlling the lights at Homestead Avenue to get cars off campus faster.
The suspect was apprehended and no one was injured. Classes resumed at 4:00 p.m.