Update: Students Were Evacuated After Note Indicated a Bomb Threat

Park Middle School was evacuated this afternoon after the school found a note indicating a bomb was somewhere in the building, police found no bomb.

Update: 2:30 p.m.

Park Middle School was evacuated earlier today due to a note that was found indicating a bomb might be located in an area of the school, officials said.

According to Police Chief Brian Mahoney, the Scotch Plains police department received a phone call that the school had found a note stating that there was a bomb in a specific section of the building. After consulting with Superintendent Dr. Margaret Hayes and Park Middle personnel, the police department decided to evacuate the students to nearby School One due to the cold weather.

Mahoney added that the students did an excellent job walking over to School One and were very organized and calm throughout the evacuation.

Once the department knew the students were safe and warm they began investigating the area that the note indicated might have a bomb.

“We checked the immediate area where the threat was located and it appeared to most likely be a hoax,” Mahoney said.

He stated that since they made the decision to evacuate students both the Scotch Plains Police Department K-9 Unit and Union County K-9 Unit took the necessary precautions to check the rest of the building.

After the units were sure the building was safe they admitted the children to return and carry on with the rest of the school day.

"The note most likely came from in the building, possibly a student,” Mahoney said.

The investigation as to where the note came from is ongoing.

Update: 1:55 p.m.

Students have returned to Park Middle School following an evacuation earlier this afternoon.

The building is safe and secure and the students will have a regular dismissal followed by afternoon activites, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Sally Rowland said.

Rowland added that the principal will send home a letter in regards to the evacuation and the police chief will be issuing a press release.

Original Story

At approximately 12:30 p.m. parents were notified that Park Middle School was evacuated to School One.

According to Sally Rowland, Assistant to the Superintendent, all children are safe and there is no need for concern.

Parents were notified of the evacuation via the Honeywell Alert System.

Rowland informed Patch that more information will be available shortly.

The following alert was sent out to parents:

Alert Name:

Park Evacuation

Alert Type:

High Importance

Complete Message:

Park Middle School Students have been moved to School One. Sudents are safe and there is no cause for alarm. Further information will be sent later.

School Name:

Park Middle School

Sent By:

Sally Rowland

Dianne January 23, 2013 at 07:32 PM
I agree. I got the notice on my phone and the words "no cause for alarm' were not visible. I left work immediately and went to the school. Dr. Hayes indicated that there was a need for the students to be out of the school for an extended period and they didn't want the students outside because it is so cold. The students were not permitted to get their coats. My son said a Code Red was called and the kids hid in the corner of the classroom.
Dianne January 23, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Curious Citizen - I couldn't agree more. I appreciate that the staff takes safety so seriously and at the same time that cryptic message was very alarming even though that was not the intention.
christina January 23, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Agreed with Derek. I am extremely disappointed and frustrated with the lack of detail communication from the Honeywell Alert on this incident. It caused many concerns for us parents as to what happened. Future communications should be very specific of the issue.
Dianne January 23, 2013 at 07:36 PM
The wording in a situation like this makes all the difference. I hope this never happens again, and if it does, that the message is more carefully crafted.
Nicole Bitette (Editor) January 23, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Hi all, I've added more details that I received from officials. Hopefully the updated article provides more answers to your questions as to why the children were evacuated.
douglassgrad January 23, 2013 at 07:45 PM
The communications to parents on this was absolutely terrible. I receive a message that the school has been evacuated and students are safe -- and then nothing! I didn't even receive a message that the kids were back to school. Given the current environment, I would have expected more information, more often.Children with cell phones should have been given the opportunty to contact their parents and let them know they wre OK. I spent the afternoon worried sick.
spres January 23, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Christina. I dont think they need to go into specifics. I think that causing more problems. They just needed a better message then that. Remember that message is going out immediately when something happens. You dont always know the specifics of every case that quickly.
Lisa Ferdinand Dunlap January 23, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Received a message from my daughter first saying they were evacuated and she was scared! My heart dropped! I would like a few more details in the future! I didn't appreciate seeing on Facebook what is going on before hearing it from the school!
Derek January 23, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I think it was handled OK however the communication was very poor. I am not disagreeing with their process for code "add your color here", what I am disagreeing with is the communication that followed.
Derek January 23, 2013 at 08:18 PM
I think specifics should probably be left out of it as it's still speculative at that time. No point in being told A if it's really B. BUT, how about something along the lines of, "All students and staff have been evacuated due to a threat to the school. The police are onsite checking the situation and we will update you fully later, once we know all the facts. Please refrain from calling the school as this is detrimental to the ongoing investigation".
Curious Citizen January 23, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Let me add, the phrase "no students were harmed" is very comforting. I could care less if they're at School One or the Italian American Hall if no students were harmed. But as I stated above, in Connecticut, "students" were available for pick-up at the Fire Hall. Entirely too vague. Why yes, "students have been moved to School One" could mean 90% of them, the rest didn't get out in time... "All students and staff are safe at School One and no one is in danger" is SO MUCH better than what they wrote to us.
douglassgrad January 23, 2013 at 08:32 PM
So apparently the teachers knew it was a bomb threat. The police knew it was a bomb threat. The kids knew it was a bomb threat. Why not tell us, the parents? I think more information is better than the vague message we received. A notice that the school had a bomb threat but that all teachers and staff were safe would have been far more comforting.
Nick January 23, 2013 at 08:48 PM
From the most recent reports, the school and police did a great a job. However, I agree with most posters - the msg over the Honeywell system was disconcerting because it was vague. As a parent, given recent events, your mind can't help but run wild with ideas. I'm not sure what the right level of detail is appropriate and I'm quite sure no matter what the response, there will be parents unhappy with the wording. However, perhaps this is a good case study for the BOE to research what is appropriate to send. How other districts handle this. I want to believe someone somewhere has researched this and taken into account how to properly word an email blast that informs parents while at the same time is sensitive to the psychological dynamic on parents when they receive such a notice.
Derek January 23, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Pushing the "like" button
Barney Oldfield January 23, 2013 at 09:03 PM
There is nothing unclear about the statement that Park Middle Schools students have been moved to School 1. Students are safe and there is no cause for alarm. No reasonable person could interpret that as meaning that some students may not be safe. "No cause for alarm" creates great alarm? Really? I want to know that my son has been evacuated and is safe and that is the message I got. Please deal with the emergency and make sure kids are safe. Do not take time to "carefully craft" a message. Some of you folks would not be satisfied if each kid was sent home in a limo. My thanks to the staff and police for a job well done.
Jerri January 23, 2013 at 09:14 PM
According to my son, neither teachers nor students knew that it was a bomb threat until they were back safe at Park and Mrs. Rebimbas explained situation. Yes, while messaging did not deliver the most complete explanation, imagine the chaos that would ensue had all of us driven to pick up our kids during the lockdown. My child said he felt safe and that none of the kids panicked. Also...it is my understanding that if there is a possibility of a bomb neither staff nor students are allowed to use cell phones as they could potentially detonate a bomb. I am thankful that my son is safe and sound, not stressed out, felt safe with his teachers, and that the administration, staff and faculty acted in such a expeditious and professional way. Let's be thankful for our blessings in light of what has been happening around us.
Nick January 23, 2013 at 09:18 PM
Thats exactly my point, while you accepted the msg as reasonable - I, and it seems many others, wanted more details. was it a fire or noxious fumes? or the other extreme - an armed nutjob...details dictate whether I leave my job to get my kids. Also, rest assured I would be satisfied with the limo
Fam-a-Lam January 23, 2013 at 09:37 PM
I had a 3-2-1 freak out moment.... when I heard the first message too! So, I agree with a kinder more gentle way of wording the safety of our children in any situation that heeds a honeywell alert message/email to us. I am very happy it was just a false alarm, and very happy we are lucky enough to be complaining about a poorly worded message and not anything more tragic ! :)
john doe January 23, 2013 at 10:18 PM
how about focusing on what they are going to do to the suspect. If it was a student is expulsion in order? what's next?
micc-jay January 24, 2013 at 02:59 AM
actually I am a student and we did not know anything. We just gathered our thoughts and guessed it was a bomb threat.
Vickie White January 24, 2013 at 03:21 AM
I agree with Barney! The staff and police did an outstanding job of evacuating everyone asap!
Mike January 24, 2013 at 01:34 PM
This feedback is all very good for the BOE. I agree with Derek and the facts are, with all due respect, first responders don't want us as parents at the school. They have a plan and let's trust the plan. We will be notified as necessary. The unfortunate part is 12 years after 9/11, the BOE still doesn't have pre-incident messages developed for every possible situation. There are many free courses and hundreds of sources for all types of messaging. Other than protecting lives, communications is one of the most important components to any incident or disaster. Did we forget about how poor communications were during Hurricane Sandy already?
haljalikea kick January 24, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Very thankful it was a false alarm, and thankful police and school staff keep the kids safe. However, I agree with Mike's comments above. I hope in addition to the BOE doing a better job with the messages, they also need to check the Honeywell alert system. We registered 2 cellphones for texts and calls, and of course the home phone number. After Yesterday's event , the 1st message was sent via text & voice only to the 2 cell numbers. The 2nd message only went to 1 cell via text and voice to the home phone? That Doesn't make sense?
Yssa Bobrow January 24, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Can't the schools develop a tiered alert code? I mean, I can understand why the alert that went out didn't tell parents that there was a bomb threat as that would have set off all sorts of panic, but there's got to be a way for the city to develop a defined alert code, like green, yellow, red, with definitions so when an alert goes out like this they can assign a code to it and parents would at least have some sense of the real severity.
Barney Oldfield January 24, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Just wanted to note that I noticed that the fire department was not called to the scene. I would think that they should be present. Do we wait to call them until after a bomb goes off? Seems like our new OEM chief missed a beat there.
KP January 24, 2013 at 10:42 PM
The schools DO have a color alert code - someone in this conversation said that her child was told it was a code RED and they hid in the classroom...odd. My daughter said it was a code YELLOW - and then changed to an EVACUATION...which perhaps, is RED? No way kids would be taught to hide in a classroom for a bomb threat.
KP January 24, 2013 at 10:44 PM
And yes - this color code system of alert and response should be part of the Honeywell notification procedure. Apples to apples for all concerned....staff, students, parents and responders.
Aimee January 24, 2013 at 11:19 PM
I am an actual student at Park. I knew this wasn't a drill after the teachers told us to evacuate the building to school one. Plus, I was pretty scared.
qj January 25, 2013 at 12:29 AM
I am one of the staff and a parent at Park middle school. There was no mention of any coded color. The messages to the students over the pa system are very simple and direct. Unfortunately in the crazy world we live in, all SPF students know what to do and the importance of a lock down. That is what was first called on the pa system.as staff,we follow procedure to calm the students, keep them quiet and lock all doors until we hear further instructions. Be proud of your children and the park middle staff and the SPF boe. Moving almost 900 students and approx 150 adults out of a building in less than three minutes is admirable. To release more info than what was first relayed to the parents would have sent more shock waves than there was. Please remember not only did our children run run run to school one (all 900) but. Another 400 were about to have lunch and recess as well. Many parents called and found their children well on cell phones and many arrived at school one.
Ocean January 25, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Albiet the messaging and Honeywell system issues, I must commend our local police departments, our schools, teachers, staff, principals, superintendent, Union County K-9/police and district employees. I happened to arrive after the evacuation and EVERYONE I saw/spoke to was calm, direct and it all seemed so under control. I was very impressed with how it all was handled, even over at School One. You all should realize that as a parent (I did not get the text), I had no idea there even was an incident until arriving at school. Overall, we parents should feel really good our kids were all in good hands and emergency procedures were immediately implemented. I was really impressed.


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