SIU issues emergency warning because of a suspicious package

SIU issues emergency warning because of a suspicious package
By: Carly O'Keefe
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois University put it's emergency warning system to the test when a suspicious package showed up on campus.

Wednesday, a man walked into classroom 121 at SIU's Lawson Hall catching the attention of the professor and students. "They saw a guy come in wearing a suit, and left this bag, and left. They thought it was suspicious and so the police were called and the building was evacuated and they encouraged nearby buildings to evacuate as well," said SIU Spokesman Rod Sievers.

Meanwhile the SIU Department of Public Safety sent out a mass e-mail, alerting students that a "suspicious package" had been found in Lawson Hall. Alerts were also broadcast through campus emergency notification system radios.

As it turns out, the duffle bag in question posed no danger at all. "It turned out to be a 60 pound bag of sand he was going to use in a class presentation and just didn't want to carry it around campus, so he walked in and set it down and didn't tell anybody," said SIU staff member Jim Foerster.

Still, students say they're grateful for the heads up. "It seems extreme now because of what happened but if it was a bomb or whatever, it's good to know they'd go the extra mile for us," said SIU Junior Jake Rebstock. "I'm happy that the university let us know that there was a danger on campus so we wouldn't be surprised like the people at Virginia Tech," said SIU Junior Rian Walton. "In light of current events, I think a proper response was needed and I thin they did a great job of getting it out as soon as possible," said SIU Junior Seth Berry.

Fortunately it was a false alarm this time, but university officials say it gave them a great chance to test their system in case next time it's real. "It was a good test. It wasn't one of these made-up drills, it was kind of the real deal, and everything went down the way it should have," said Sievers.

SIU officials say in light of the Virginia Tech massacre, they're looking into new ways of notifying students in emergency situations. SUI is considering a mass voice mail and text-messaging system to let folks on campus know what's going on even if they're not near a computer or emergency radio.