Abundance of caution closes Stanford campus buildings

Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) closed Tresidder Memorial Union and many of the surrounding buildings Tuesday morning in response to a reported suspicious backpack.

By 12:30 p.m., police determined that there was no threat and began the process of reopening the closed buildings. Among the buildings closed were Tresidder, Old Union, Dinkelspiel, the Faculty Club, the Firehouse and the Humanities Center.  Faculty, staff and students in other area buildings, including those along Capistrano Way, were asked to shelter in place until the situation was resolved.

Classes and operations throughout the rest of the campus continued uninterrupted.

The backpack, which a passerby reported as being suspicious, was found shoved inside a newspaper receptacle outside of Tresidder around 8:55 a.m., prompting an activation of the university’s AlertSU system. Faculty, staff and students were asked to stay clear of the area through messages received through texts, emails, university tweets and posts to the university’s main and emergency websites and phone hotlines.

The area was ringed with yellow caution tape and posted deputies and security personnel from Stanford DPS and police officers from Palo Alto. Also involved were members of the Palo Alto Fire Department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad and the Santa Clara County Hazmat Team.  Stanford police and the Palo Alto Fire Department created a unified command center in the Tresidder Union parking lot to direct operations.

According to Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson, members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff ‘s Office bomb squad deployed robots to initially investigate the backpack.  Wilson noted that officers respond to suspicious packages and abandoned backpacks on campus on a somewhat routine basis.

“This one made the responding officers uncomfortable,” Wilson said, “which is why we decided to use an abundance of caution in how we responded to the situation.”

She said, “This incident proves the importance of people being attentive to their surroundings and reporting concerns promptly to campus police. The emergency response personnel who responded to this incident also appreciate the cooperation of the campus community in staying calm and clear of the area to allow police to conduct an investigation.  I was impressed by the community’s remarkable discipline in staying away from the area.”

Wilson added, “Stanford is also very grateful to our mutual aid emergency response partners as well as university response personnel for their help in resolving this situation.  The teamwork was strong and the communication worked well.”

After being removed by the Santa Clara County Bomb Squad, the package was analyzed and determined to contain personal effects.