Panel Interview with Washington State University Officials about Emergency Procedure Logistics in the Wake of the Streit-Perham Hall Bombing.
My name is Tom Johnson, chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice, and I'd like to welcome you to the third in a series of three videotapes on the Streit-Perham Hall bombing incident which occurred on the campus of Washington State University. We are in the process of making these tapes to serve specifically as a training aid to the law enforcement community. However, this particular tape, we're asking many officials of Washington State University to join us and share with us some of the problems that they encountered in their various offices. And therefore we hope that other universities who may experience problems similar to the tragedy that befell Washington State University might be better prepared to deal and address with some of the difficulties that arise as a result of a bombing incident. Permit me to introduce the panelists
who have joined us today. Bob Rehwaldt, who is director of the university safety division. Next to Bob is Sally Austen, who is senior assistant attorney general assigned to Washington State University. Next to Sally is Stuart Litzsinger, director of physical plant for Washington State University. Next to Stuart is George Bettas, who is director of residence living for Washington State University. And then we have Dick Frey, who is manager of the Washington State University news bureau. And finally we have Bill Bierbaum, who's director of food and housing services for Washington State University. All of these people played a significant role in the bombing incident as their offices were directly responsible for the provision of services to the university and
student community just after this incident occurred. I'd like to open the panel discussion by asking Stuart Litzsinger, director of physical plant, if he would be kind enough to share with us his observations regarding this bombing incident, what services were called upon by his office, and just generally any information that he might share with us that might prove to be useful to other university officials who have not experienced an incident of this nature. Stuart? Well, our, our prime concern after we were notified was to get on the scene and check for any utility disruptions, particularly since this happened in the, I think it was mid-December and it was cold, and we wanted to be sure that the heating system was still functioning through the rest of the building. There were also concerns that there might be some utility disruptions that would cause some kind of a safety problem, you know, a hazard, broken lines or
whatever. So we investigated that very quickly, and then the next concern was for structural damage. And when we got there, the area was cordoned off. The police were doing a very efficient job. They got us right into the site immediately, and we did our investigation in, oh, I would say, probably 20, 30 minutes. And then our next concern was to stand by until we had the word to go in and start buttoning it up, you know, closing off the broken windows and the areas that were open for the weather and possible rain or snow to come in. encountered that created any unusual circumstances for your office, or by and large did everyone respond fairly well? They responded beautifully. It happened, if I recall, around 4:00, 4:30. So I had to move to get the word back to the shop to hold the whole carpenter crew on overtime. Then we got them in. We didn't know precisely what we would find or what we had to do. So I put them on standby and then when the area was
cleared enough, then they came in and started closing up the open areas. As a result of this experience, Is there anything that stands out in your mind a little more saliently than the normal activities your office performed that day, that you might share with other physical plant directors, any one particular aspect that you might suggest other people look at in your situation? I don't mean to sound blasé about the whole thing, but we're geared to deal with emergencies. This was little bit unique, but aside from the fact that this person had a bomb and destroyed himself, the kinds of problems are the kind we deal with fairly routinely. So I can't think of any particular thing that I would say, Get ready to do this. It was just a normal emergency response. Fine. Thank you very much. I'd like to ask George Bettas, who is the
director of residence living, and of course had awesome responsibilities in this particular incident, George, what, what confronted you when you first found out about this bombing, and what was your office called upon to perform and assist the university in? I guess the first issue was to look at it from a safety perspective, trying to locate the different students that were living on that floor. Some of them were in class, some of them were off campus. But trying to find out where people were and to account for who was on the floor, who was in the hospital as a result of this, and to look at it from the safety perspective. The next thing that we were involved in was talking with parents,
getting students to situations where they could contact their parents, because this was on the news media right away, and there were a great number of very concerned parents of students who were living in the building. And so we made a, an extra effort you might say, to, to get students into contact with their parents. Beyond that, then we settled into the, the more, you might say, routine aspects of dealing with this: Following up, working with the police in terms of safety kinds of issues related to the building itself, getting students placed in other residence halls, at least for the evening. Beginning to, to set up a system to handle ways to get books back to students, so they could go on and attend classes, and so on like that. Did you encounter any unusual problems as a result of this
bombing, such as some of the students who had residence in that hall indicating a preference not to go back or a preference to leave campus, or were there anything of this nature that your office had to do, any, provide any distinct counseling services for? We did arrange for students from that floor to work with certain counselors in our, in our counseling center. A tragedy like this, with the kinds of overtones that this, this thing had certainly set up some emotional kinds of concerns on a number, on the part of a number of students and a number of students did talk with people in the counseling center. Some of them talked with ministers, others talked with residence hall staff. The resident advisors and the head resident in that hall were, were busy for almost a 24-hour basis for a week or two after the bomb happened. There is one other question comes to mind then. This is directed, I suspect,
more to the future, in the sense that now that you've experienced a situation such as this, do you have any distinct or unique training plans or programs for your residence hall counselors before they, before the students return this coming year? Well, as I reflect back on this incident, the one thing that, that was to our advantage in terms of the safety of the students, related to the training of the staff. The head resident and the resident advisors have been, you might say, trained. We've talked about these kinds of things in a number of, of ways, not specifically related to a person setting off an actual bomb, but dealing with emergency and crisis kinds of situations. And as I reflected back upon the actions of the head resident, the actions of the resident advisor in that situation, the kind of training that we had provided for those staff members really paid
off. The contacts with the police early when we found out about the fact that the individual was coming to campus feeling fairly distraught, right on through the actual period where we actually knew that he had a bomb, and the notification of the police that went along with that. We have reviewed our bomb procedures, at least bomb threat procedures, and of course we'll be discussing that further with staff as the year begins, this year and in the future. Wonderful. Thank you. Bill, being director of food and housing obviously created some problems for you, and I'm wondering what specifically your office was called upon to perform and what you might share with the audience. We initially started out pretty much in a support role with security police
and security forces on hand. We did what we felt we could do to help and were instructed to help in terms of helping keep people out of areas and control of areas. We normally have responsibility for the maintenance and custodial functions within the building, so we had some staff available and on hand that could help in that sort of situation. Basically we were responsible for the physical facility. And so in working with physical plant personnel to help decide who would do what, part of a immediate emergency follow up on getting facilities secured in order to protect the security of what the the area itself from people who may be interested or just inquiring and want to kind of use the area as a place to just look around. So we helped out on that function and immediately, and then we followed up with the function of going into the area after security forces had been there, that I'm sure others will be talking about, to help with the
actual cleanup and determining what valuables and what other personal belongings could be saved and salvaged from the area itself. And our people went through that actually with a fine-tooth comb and a screen, screening out every possible thing out of the debris and sacking that with no, with no decision whatsoever whether about its value to an individual. If it was anything other than just debris, it was saved and left up and packaged for the other people to review later. Then we followed up with that, after that situation to work with others in the evaluation of the safety of the structure on a permanent basis, to establish what we needed to do to put the area back into use. And, I guess you could say it's an interim point in there, I dealt with the insurance company to review with us what we had to do, and so they understood what was possible and what would be needed, and follow up with the construction and refurbishing the area, and eventually we'll move people back in there this fall. Thank you, Bill.
I'd like to ask Sally Austin, who's senior assistant attorney, what possible contributions she might share with us that her office has to be mindful of in this area of litigation. Obviously the university is caught in a situation where we are responsible for a variety of our students. And I'm wondering just what advice you might share with other attorneys who have a university function similar to yours, Sally. Well, I think that a time, a situation like this always presents potential legal problems. The primary concern in this context, of course, was that there were, there was extensive property damage involved and unfortunately some personal injuries, although I think that in the situation at Washington State University, we were very lucky in that the personal
injuries were not as extensive as they could have been, and the property damage that was sustained was largely covered by insurance. As far as the students are concerned, I understand that none of them suffered any great loss as far as their personal belongings were concerned, and the building itself was insured. But as I've said, there are, there are still continuing problems going on as far as who's going to bear the ultimate financial burden, and that sort of thing. But in this situation I think that we were very fortunate. But there are those sorts of problems that any attorney's office should be aware of and, and keep track of. Would you advise other university legal staff to work with their housing and residence and physical plant
offices in the sense of trying to identify the responsibilities each office might have and just basically familiarize oneself with the potential in litigation? Would that seem to be a reasonable movement in terms of training from an in-staff level? Oh certainly, yeah, I think so, Tom. I think that generally here we try to do that. My office works very closely and on a continuing basis with all of the university offices, but particularly the ones that are represented on this panel. I think that one of the reasons that this situation was handled as smoothly as it was was that these offices were prepared to deal with any emergency, even one as unforeseeable as this one. It's very helpful, I think, for a university attorney's office to be basically
familiar with the operations of various offices around campus, so that he or she is aware of which individuals in which offices have responsibility for carrying out certain functions. At the time of the incident itself, I did not become directly involved because I knew who was in charge of taking care of what aspects of the problem and could rely on those officers to perform those functions. But without that kind of communication and understanding of the functioning of the university offices, it would have made all of our jobs far more difficult, I think. Thank you. Dick Frey serves as manager of the Washington State University New, News Bureau and this bombing incident made national news and so his office was inundated by the news media, and I'd like to ask Dick just precisely what you folks did and what you'd recommend might
happen at other universities if they ever encounter this situation. Tom, it's difficult to set out one practice that would cover all news bureaus at universities, because we're rather unique here, being about 80 miles away from our prime media source, Spokane. They normally deal with us on a reporter basis. They depend on us to feed material to them. We cover the campus daily and get information out. Many other news bureaus at universities around the country have media sources immediately available in larger cities where they come out on campus. So our situation here at Washington State was interesting, in that we had a very limited number of media people covering actually. But we had a lot of them phoning in. We really were inundated with phone calls. And, as George mentioned, the parents, number one concern, and that certainly was number, one of our number one concerns also, because we knew that they would be listening to their radios, watching
television, and talking to reporters, calling newspapers for information. So we were trying to get as good and concise and clear a picture as possible to those people as quickly as we could. It -- We have a limited staff, so it limited us in our mobility. We were tied pretty much down in the office. With a larger news staff, I would think that you'd have some people in the field gathering material and feeding it back to you in the news bureau. The way we were, we were there for awhile answering the phones, then we were out reporting. One other thing that I'd like to stress is that, the importance of working with people such as we have here, in gaining every bit of information from them and setting up, as soon as possible, good news conferences. Get them together, get the people who really know what's going on together, so that the media people who are on the scene can talk to them and get information
firsthand. Also if you have some of them who are available to do, handle phone calls, get them where they can talk directly on the phone to people who call in. I think you'll get a much clearer, much better, and much more accurate picture to present. Thank you. Finally, I'd like to ask Bob Rehwaldt, director of university safety division, to share with us some of the details that his office participated in. Obviously, Bob had to coordinate all of these activities, as well as the activities of the police department. And, Bob, if you could, basically give us an overview of what you encountered. Well, as you know, the police and fire departments are under the office of the safety director. I arrived on the scene about seven minutes after the bomb went off, and our first concern, of course, was the assistance of those who were injured, including our two patrolmen. I believe there were three
students who were injured, and of course the victim. We weren't really sure at that point whether he was gone or was with us, and so we gave him initial attention. When the assistance, the first aid assistance, and the ambulance assistance was, was finished, of course our next concern was a search, development of the bombed area. The other pictures will show the gigantic amount of of damage in the area, some 15 rooms, and we weren't sure if there were any students there who were injured, and so we, we called upon Residence Living to have a head count as soon as we could get one, and we made at least three sweeps of the area, through the rubble and debris, not knowing what we were going to find. It was only after the third sweep that we were, we had some assurance that there wasn't anybody else injured in the building. And so I think in this, in this respect, a headcount
is something that any dormitory should be, should be ready to come up with as soon as they can, because of the possibility of missing an injured person. The next thing that we did in order of importance was a cordoning off of the area. After our firemen completed their search of the area, we cordoned off the outside area. Glass and debris was blown, oh, some 200 feet, out into the street, so we had that cordoned off against the injury by the glass, and also we were of some mind that possibly there was another bomb in the area that could possibly go off. So we wanted to keep bystanders as far away as we could, and we did that with the assistance of local law enforcement, the Pullman police department and fire department came to the, to our assistance and helped us in that respect. And then lastly, of course, of importance was notifying our supervisors, those people on campus who, who should know what's going on and pass the word, and then
getting word to the eastern Washington investigative team and the bomb squad for their assistance. So that kind of tracks, I guess, the the manner in which we took care of things on the floor. All the while the police department being fully in charge of the investigation after the fire department cleared the area of dangers. [mumbling] Well, this obviously was an unfortunate incident that befell all of us. I think that we were very fortunate to have such quick response, not only by the university safety safety division, but also by physical plant, Residence Living, housing and food services, and all the offices involved really worked together very carefully to allow us to notify parents that their
sons and daughters were safe and secure. And by and large, I would say that the planning that Sally Austen spoke of really minimized some of the legal vulnerabilities and really provided us with an opportunity to deliver a fine level of service. Does anyone have any final statements or observations you'd like to share with us at this point? Bill. I should point out that one of the key items for the people that were not injured, the people who were displaced by this, right off the bat, we did make an inventory of where there were available places to move those people and Residence Living took an inventory of that space, tipped off their staff to be prepared to handle extra people in these areas. And so almost immediately we were involved in allowing people to transfer to another place to stay, another place to sleep. But there was a problem
related to that that I think we should point out. The problem was that because of the nature of this particular incident, there was a certain security things that had to be cleared, and not only just for safety reasons, but for other reasons, and students were not able to get to any of their belongings for a period of time. The area was cordoned off and students were without their materials that they normally would expect to have: a toothbrush, a washcloth, a textbook, or something like that, for a period of time. So while they were accommodated and housed there was still that point that their personal belongings, even though they might not have been damaged, were still not available to them. And that was a little bit of something that was a little upsetting to some that I think people should be aware that will happen in an emergency situation. Beyond that, though, the counseling and working with the students, every effort was made to bring the situation back to a normal situation as quickly as possible. Almost around the clock effort, I would say, happened then, and people expect that sort of effort to happen when they're being inconvenienced, and I think it should happen. So we
were able to, through the efforts of everybody involved, and I should point out that the efforts in many cases involved sitting down at a table and saying OK here's what has to happen, who's going to take it? You've got it, or you've got it. OK, you've got it, run with it, if you need any help, let me know. And there were, all the gray areas were cleared up on a face-to-face situation right there. And we just moved ahead. And within a very brief period time we were back to a fairly normal situation actually, in which we were able to allow students to go back into rooms that were not damaged almost 24 to 36 hours ahead of when we originally estimated they would be able to get into those rooms. And this is a great aid. I would say when we were estimating about when things are going to happen, be sure you estimate on the long side initially, not abnormally long, but give yourself some leeway, and if you can beat that through any means, it just helps the whole morale and psychological problems that grow out of a situation like this. Wonderful. Very excellent suggestions, Bill, thank you. George. Dick mentioned the importance of
- Panel Interview with Washington State University Officials about Emergency Procedure Logistics in the Wake of the Streit-Perham Hall Bombing.
- Contributing Organization
- Northwest Public Broadcasting (Pullman, Washington)
- AAPB ID
- Tom Johnson, the Chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice, moderates a panel of Washington State University officials on the Streit-Perham Hall bombing incident of December 18, 1979. Emergency response logistics in the event of a bombing at a university are discussed. Panelists from WSU offices of safety, the attorney general, the physical plant, residence living, the news bureau, and housing & food service reflect on their experiences. This program is the 3rd of a series of educational, training tapes on the Streit-Perham Hall bombing.
- Copyright Date
- Asset type
- Produced by Instructional Television Division of Radio-Television Services Washington State University (c) 1980.
- Media type
- Moving Image
Moderator: Johnson, Tom
Panelist: Rehwaldt, Bob
Panelist: Austen, Sally
Panelist: Litzsinger, Stuart
Panelist: Bettas, George
Panelist: Frey, Dick
Panelist: Bierbaum, Bill
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
KWSU/KTNW (Northwest Public Television)
Identifier: 2347 (Northwest Public Television)
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- Chicago: “ Panel Interview with Washington State University Officials about Emergency Procedure Logistics in the Wake of the Streit-Perham Hall Bombing. ,” 1980-00-00, Northwest Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-296-35gb5qzk.
- MLA: “ Panel Interview with Washington State University Officials about Emergency Procedure Logistics in the Wake of the Streit-Perham Hall Bombing. .” 1980-00-00. Northwest Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-296-35gb5qzk>.
- APA: Panel Interview with Washington State University Officials about Emergency Procedure Logistics in the Wake of the Streit-Perham Hall Bombing. . Boston, MA: Northwest Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-296-35gb5qzk