The Bomb Threat


By the Flying Dutchman
November 18th, 2017


[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]On the 10th of October, United World College Maastricht was evacuated due to an alleged bomb threat. Shortly after the clock passed 1pm, a call was received by the school’s receptionist claiming the presence of a bomb on school grounds. Our college’s leadership team was informed immediately and instructed a complete evacuation of the school. Students and staff were made to leave the school building after sounding the alarms whilst residence mentors, everso bravely, took the responsibility of clearing the residences.
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We entered the gym in maelstrom; the primary teachers were playing hand games with children to keep them occupied, whilst MYP and DP students were moved promptly into the gym hall. Most students were in complete confusion as to why they had exited the school. Indeed, most of us believed that it was yet another drill and refused the seriousness of the situation. This ignorance continued until the word “bomb” started to circulate the gym hall. Confusion became worry and fret as we realised that us leaving the school grounds was not a means for training. It became all too clear when a bomb squad arrived at our campus and the name of our college headlined the Dutch breaking news. In the past decade it has become increasingly common for news to report even the slightest incidents that suspect terror, and so many students thought that our school was simply another target. One student feared “it could be an intruder”: A couple years back -consequent of the violence in Brussels- our school was advised by local police against the national flags hanging from the windows, suggesting it could make the institution a “potential target” to similar actions and, therefore, some reasoned that such a situation was not far fetched. These suspicions were put to rest as the Maastricht police’s twitter account confirmed the issue at hand was indeed a bomb threat, furthering the disorder. To many, it seemed a rather bizarre phenomena for a police department to tweet their security updates, let alone the evac location of the threatened kids. However, fortunately amid the increasingly tense situation, staff members were quick to step in, to prevent worry and fret from becoming panic.
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The atmosphere was kept calm, unnaturally it would seem in such drastic circumstances. The professionality of our staff members dominated the scene and their maturity provided a setting where students gave more concern to finishing their math homework than worrying about the bomb threat just down the road. Worries were contained by the tranquility of our staff members, a major effort considering many of them were only made aware of the circumstance at the location. Panic comes instinctively for most upon hearing such news, yet the responses of our staff members were so well contained it seemed unnatural to students to trouble themselves.
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The vibrant voices of the likes of our Louis, Virpi Mahonen and our Heads of Years- Marcus Felsman and Saskia Van Kampen- set a tone of normality that undermined the alarm that would otherwise come with such a scare; in any emergency situation, the most important thing is that the adults and older students stay calm, even in the face of uncertain information and a new scenario, something our tutors and faculty as a whole did admirably to command the mood of the scene.
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In addition, the phoney phone call brought to light a few logistical flaws within the evacuation procedure. The concerns expressed were particularly centred around the coordination of the school building alongside the residence, which brought much stress to the residential community on the day.
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Many took no hesitation in being very critical of the plan’s execution, going into minor details where they believed necessary. A warming sight to see, caused by such a terrible act; the genuine concern amongst our community members for each other’s safety highlighted a sense of togetherness, characteristic of our community’s values and shared equally by those on and off campus. However, this unwelcomed occasion gave us a realistic window into the effectiveness of our process, more valuable than that of  planned drill; similar to the difference between scrimmaging your teammates in practice versus playing an opposing team in football.
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The feedback gained in regard to the execution of the procedure is ongoing and proving helpful to assess its practicality, allowing for better preparation should similar unfortunate situations arise, but hopefully this will not be a necessity. Also, a relevant detail to reiterate that in the leadership team’s de-brief with the police, it was confirmed there was no specific threat to our school and no particular need to alter our routines. However, the larger detail that is not to be overlooked is the professionality of our own staff in handling such a dire situation. This was the college’s first encounter with such an extreme threat, yet it was handled well; the school was evacuated within minutes and the distress was kept to a minimum. Students and staff were in the parking lot in less than 10 minutes and the transition to the gym followed smoothly and shortly.
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In summary, we are grateful for our faculty that are very much the backbone of the school environment, the constants of many of our two-year experiences, righteous exemplars of the saying ‘Not all heroes wear capes’ as ours settle humbly for just the blue lanyards.


 

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