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Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 11:16pm
EL PASO — The University of Texas at El Paso evacuated the campus and canceled classes after the university received a bomb threat Tuesday afternoon.
The campus emergency notification system sent out a text message and email before 2 p.m. to approximately 29,000 registered users informing them of the bomb threat.
"It was like a bomb alert or something and we had to evacuate," said Eric Gomez, a student who was taking a midterm at the time the alert went out.
UTEP officials said they received the a bomb threat over the phone and decided to evacuate.
"Often times we'll do things that are precautionary in nature and that's what we did this time and I think it's important that we emphasize that this is a precautionary step," said UTEP Police Chief Cliff Walsh.
Walsh said during a news conference the university tries to get as much information from the caller and those who received the call, then they assess the threat with the help of federal agencies.
Walsh estimated up to 20,000 people were on campus at the time of the evacuation.
UTEP said the evacuation plan for emergencies such as this worked in notifying those on campus of the evacuation.
Walsh said he was pleased in the way the campus was evacuated.
"The evacuation of the campus did take place in a calm and orderly manner," Walsh said.
Students said they thought everybody was so calm because some believed it could possibly be a drill.
"We didn't take it too seriously," Gomez said. "It's a drill or something but now that I'm looking at it, it is pretty serious."
Traffic did become congested with so many people trying to leave at the same time.
State troopers and the El Paso Police Department assisted with traffic congestion.
EPPD officers could also be seen checking buildings with police dogs.
Walsh stressed the campus is safe and did re-open at 7pm Tuesday evening.