Bomb threat to USF Poly Campus proved false

At 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Winter Haven Police Department (WHPD) received a call from an unidentified male warning of a bomb found at Polk State College (PSC). The caller provided no more information before hanging up.

At 8:13 a.m., the WHPD received another call with the same information, yet this time police were already on scene.

PSC, which shares its Winter Haven campus facilities with USF Polytechnic, evacuated all of its Lakeland area campuses around 8 a.m., said David Steele, associate vice president for communications and public affairs for PSC.

Though the USF campus shares facilities with the college, manager of media relations at USF Polytechnic Thomas Hagerty said PSC is responsible for handling security and evacuations for the campus.

Hagerty said Polytechnic immediately relayed the information to the Tampa campus. The Emergency Management team – comprised of Administration, University Police and Public Safety – sent out a MoBull text message alert to all USF students at 9:04 a.m. warning of the bomb threat.

Steele said the PSC campus utilizes systems similar to MoBull alerts for its students.

“We have an email blast, text blast and a phone call blast,” he said. “We also have loud speakers in our buildings that can be heard inside and outside our campus buildings.”

WHPD Public Information Officer Jamie Brown said that as soon as the threat was received, police were deployed with drug-sniffing dogs to sweep each PSC campus in order of size from smallest to largest.

“We had to stagger it because we were limited to the number of dogs we had available at the time,” she said. “At one point, we had to wait for the dogs to be transported from one campus to the other.”

Brown said nothing was found during the searches and the area was deemed clear around 11:15 a.m. At 11:19 a.m., USF students received a MoBull alert stating normal activities could resume.

Though there is currently a criminal investigation to find out the identity of the caller, Steele said he is relieved the day’s events are over.

“We’re always relieved when we get through an incident like this without any damage to life or property,” he said.

Brown said this is the second bomb threat on the campus within two weeks. The first threat was specific to the Winter Haven campus. The caller didn’t specify which campus the second time.

– Staff Report