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Bomb Threat Proves False at Novato High School

Caller made a threat at 7:20 a.m., forcing an evacuation and extensive search.

Novato High School has returned to the normal routine after an evacuation tied to a potential bomb threat, sources said Friday.

A garbled phone call made to an emergency line at 7:20 a.m. was determined to be a possible threat to the school on Arthur Street, Novato police Sgt. Eric Riddell said. After an evacuation and search of the campus by police, administrators at contracted North Bay Security personnel, the all-clear was given at 9:05 a.m.

“This was a swift and efficient evacuation in partnership with the Novato Police Department and North Bay Security," Novato High Principal Rey Mayoral said in a release sent out by the Novato Unified School District. "We are very glad this was an unfounded threat. However, we will take all action necessary to secure the safety, health and welfare of all students and staff.”

Students and teachers were back in classrooms by about 9:10 a.m., and a call was to be made to students' parents to inform them of the incident, the district said.

"There's going to be a debriefing about how this went," Riddell said. "It's good to go through the drill. There are always things you can do better, but there are also things that go very well."

Riddell said the initial call was handled by the California Highway Patrol, which then emailed the recording to Novato police at 7:40 a.m. Minutes later, officers determined it might be a threat to Novato High and contacted the school, the Novato Fire District and North Bay Security, an independent firm that handles security on Novato Unified campuses.

"The decision was to go ahead and handle it like a fire drill and send people to an area that had been searched and secured," Riddell said. "We didn't notice anything unusual and just after that we determined that it appeared to be a false threat."

The campus fire alarm was activated, and everyone was moved out to the soccer field. A fire engine and medical unit was on standby at the campus, Riddell said.

Investigators will follow leads to try and identify the caller, he said. "We'll try to figure out who owns the phone and then exhaust all other leads," he said.

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Keith S. October 19, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Ok, which classes are having tests today.
David Baldini October 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
A lot of classes missed tests because of it. Glad we are safe tho it was pretty scary when I learned it was a bomb.
Kerry Boozenny October 19, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I generally think school is a safe place for my child. I have to say I am concerned.
Zach Schmechel October 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I do not understand why someone would make a bomb threat against NHS. What would they have to gain from threatening 1500 students?
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
If you'd like to know more about the company contracted to help keep our local public school campuses safe, check out this story: http://patch.com/A-qHD5
Anthony October 19, 2012 at 07:20 PM
On test day, this is the easiest way to get out of it.
Anthony October 19, 2012 at 07:29 PM
You think school is "safe" for your child? If you were student, you would most likely know about the gangs that are at schools (yes, all schools), all the drugs/alcohol that just about everyone does, and fights that happen. Most of this goes unseen by the school because teenagers are smart about hiding it for the most part.
Karen Green October 20, 2012 at 05:31 AM
The article does not state WHEN the students were evacuated. This makes it sound like they were evacuated immediately, however, according to many kids I've talked to, that is not the case. They were only evacuated shortly before 9:00. If the threat was taken seriously enough to evacuate the kids, they should not have taken 1 1/2 to evacuate and they should have taken the time to actually secure the school. I'm not impressed.
Karen Green October 20, 2012 at 05:32 AM
I meant 1 1/2 hours.
Peter Saathoff-Harshfield October 20, 2012 at 06:10 AM
We walked out to the field at about 8:30.
Brent Carlson October 20, 2012 at 06:29 AM
Glad we (Students, Parents and Administrators) all can learn. Especially when I heard the "one-call" emergency response and heard about the bomb threat as a Parent/Guardian. This was a good drill even for me, since I had never experienced the phone message before. Practice Drills are necessary and NHS did an excellent job with handling this situation. Maybe not everything works out by the minute, but since it was a REAL threat, I hope they can trace and make sure they are prosecuted. Thanks NUSD, NPD, and the contracted Security Service.
Brent Carlson October 20, 2012 at 06:44 AM
Brent, Unfortunately, I have learned a lot from Anders Brevik and his attack on 7/22/11 Norwegian Oslo Bombings and Utoya Island about diversion and chaos. Sounds like the school was looked over, but what about the field where everyone is standing and is known.. Should we always think that our Safe areas with schools and evacuation are always secure?
wrntygrl October 20, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I have to agree with Karen. I was somewhat concerned at the amount of time between the actual threat and the time the kids were evacuated. However, I am also glad that it was handled as a fire drill, as to not cause panic and alarm within the staff and students. Story does not indicate if bomb detecting K-9's were used or what else may have been used to determine the threat was invalid.

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