All three campuses of Union County College, including the Cranford location on Springfield Avenue, were evacuated Monday afternoon following what proved a bomb threat was a hoax, according to Union County Police.
Police responded to Union County College following reports of a bomb threat that was received at about 3:15 p.m. Monday. Just after 4 p.m., fire alarms began to sound throughout the camus as students, staff and faculty were evacuated from all of the buildings on the campus.
Union County Police Chief Daniel Vaniska said law enforcement learned that the Cranford campus of UCC was the target of the bomb threat. Union County College has campuses in Cranford, Plainfield and Elizabeth. Classes at all three locations were cancelled for the remainder of the day.
"The college is closed immediately and classes will be cancelled for the duration of the day and evening," said Ellen Dotto, executive director of college relations for Union County College. "Fire alarms rang at all three campuses and students as well as staff evacuated the buildings on all three campuses. With the assistance of County and local law enforcement, the College’s Safety & Security team managed this situation to the letter of the College’s Emergency Response Plan."
According to Vaniska, county police had both the Bomb Squad and the K-9 Unit responding to the Springfield Avenue campus to search the premises.
"The campus in Cranford was swept with negative findings," Vaniska said. "So we're clearing from the site."
Detective Lt. James Wozniak of the Cranford Police Department said a unified command involving local, county and campus police was established with assistance from campus administrators. Sweeps of all of the buildings were conducted at the three UCC campuses.
"They're going to take their time and do it right to make sure the threat is unfounded," Wozniak said soon after the threat was received.
When police first responded to the sprawling Springfield Avenue campus, some officials at the college were still unaware of the threat.
Nicole Torella, the Manager of Publications and Communications at the school, was in her office Monday shortly after the threat was reported. They were not notified of the threat for several minutes after the call was received. At about 3:55 p.m., office workers at the campus were evacuated, but no alarms were sounded and no announcements were made over the school's public address system until just after 4 p.m. As police began at arrive at the campus, a few students skateboarded around the buildings, unaware of the situation.
A few students — who did not wish to be identified — were in the admissions office filling out forms for graduation when they were told to evacuate MacDonald Hall. Meanwhile, administrative workers left the building saying, "Well, short day...see you tomorrow," and laughing as they left the campus.
Jerome Bailey of Plainfield was with a group of other students who were preparing for graduation when the alarms sounded at 4:02 p.m., alerting the campus to the evacuation. The students, who all plan to attend NJIT following their commencement from UCC, said they still weren't entirely sure what was happening at the school.
"Everyone jokes around right now because we don't know what is going on," said Bailey, who will be studying architecture at NJIT. "I just hope that this isn't a real threat and that everything with be okay."