Bomb threats delay final exams at UTC - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bomb threats delay final exams at UTC

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Fire trucks and bomb sniffing dogs have become part of a UTC education.

"Apparently these are pretty common," said Zach Eils, a sophomore student. "They seem to be happening pretty regularly."

There have been four phony bomb threats this semester alone. The most recent came Thursday morning as students were sitting down to take final exams.

The evacuations forced several classes from three buildings to a cemetery near campus. A small group of professors allowed students to complete their exams there. Others rescheduled the tests for a later date.

"It just became exhausting," exclaimed Caroline O'Rourke, sophomore from Nashville. "I was like, I want to take this now, why do we have to wait?"

Caroline O'Rourke's Geology final was rescheduled. Her semester will now last longer than expected. "A lot of people are supposed to fly home on Saturday, so it's delaying them," she added.

It's not only students annoyed by the rash of disruptions. "A lot of time, productivity, and money is lost in these situations," explained Chuck Cantrell, spokesperson for UTC.

Cantrell says continuing to call fire crews, police investigators, and the bomb squad to campus wastes tax payer dollars and time. "They are pulled away from real work, so if there were a real emergency somewhere else that delays their response time," he said.

That's why UTC Police Chief Robert Ratchford says the FBI and Homeland Security are now aiding in the hunt for the prankster. "We're looking at class C felonies just for this kind of a prank call," he told Channel 3. "They can actually be convicted and serve time for the commission of this offense."

Caroline O'Rourke is convinced the caller is a student, trying to dodge exams. Investigators will only say they're keeping an open mind. "It has to be, because it happens every year during midterms and finals," she reasoned.

What is at stake?

Investigating false reports like these can be tough, but Ratchford says the perk to having Homeland Security and the FBI involved is the technology they can add to the investigation.

Under Tennessee law, the caller could face 15 years jail time for making false reports.

Chief Ratchford says the person behind these threats has likely told someone. He's asking anyone with information to come forward, and let this campus get back to business.

You can reach the UTC Department of Public Safety at (423) 425-4357.

Why report this bomb threat?

Investigators aren't saying much about the calls, or the person who made them.

Channel 3 does not typically report bomb threats, but this string of calls is taking police officers off the streets and students out of class.

It's become more than a disruption, and that is why we are choosing to report the details.

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