BY RISHA INAGANTI
BY MACAYLA COOK
Feb. 8 started out like any other day at the university. Quiet and sunny, with the occasional burst of wind — a typical start to the spring semester. However, the afternoon was met with a wave of confusion as a thread of UD Alerts was sent.
“UDPD and EHS are investigating a safety related incident at the Lammot Dupont Lab located at 175 The Green Lane,” the first alert read. “The building is closed until further notice.”
Less than two hours later, another alert was sent.
“The following buildings are being closed and evacuated: AVOID THE AREA OF THE GREEN,” the first alert read, listing Memorial Hall, Morris Library, Allison Hall, Brown Lab and Drake Lab.
Quickly after, the Green was filled with yellow police tape and clusters of police officers and state officials, with a helicopter floating overhead.
The third alert stated that a “controlled detonation” would be conducted on the Green and include a loud noise. Many students interpreted this alert to mean a bomb was about to be set off on campus.
The messages were met with very little additional information provided by university officials, leaving students and faculty to guess the details of what was happening. A lack of clarity on the situation caused students to share the various possibilities they had heard. Many said that they heard the evacuation was due to a chemical leak. Others heard talk of an explosive substance being made.
“What actually happened was, I believe someone from the lab made a self notification saying that there was a potential problem from a wrong mixture of chemicals,” Patrick Ogden, associate vice president and chief of police at the university, said.
An EMT onsite stated that acetone and hydrogen peroxide were mixed to make 20 grams of Triacetone Triperoxide, an explosive that is often referred to as the “mother of Satan” because of how dangerous it can be.
Despite this, crowds gathered behind the caution tape, more excited than fearful, according to students.
“I think people are really interested in it, and I also think many people just find it funny and are making jokes about it,” Anna Ferrara, a freshman chemical engineering major, said. “Nobody’s scared for their life right now, it’s kind of just something interesting to watch.”
Ferrara shared this opinion with many other students who found the situation humorous as well.
“I thought it was pretty funny that they told everyone that there was going to be an explosion on the Green,” Kylie Polin, a sophomore sports health major, said. “I don’t know, you’re asking for people to watch.”
Still, others were worried by the lack of specificity in the alerts and the vagueness of the situation as a whole.
“I had no idea what was going on until I actually walked over here,” Dylan Mooney, junior civil engineering student, said.
Mooney was not alone in feeling this way. University professors received the same amount of information as students, and were given no explanation when the buildings they were teaching in were evacuated.
Ogden spoke to the speed at which the university handled the situation, explaining why the alerts could not be more specific.
“We were working really fast, so the notifications had to be quick,” Ogden said. “We also never want to put out information too quickly because it could change as time goes on and then we’re putting out inaccurate information. Once everything was sorted out we released statements through the university instead of through UD Alert.”
The university put out a tweet in the midst of the chaos that read, “UD Environmental Health and Safety staff are addressing an issue with emergency response officials regarding an isolated hazardous materials situation related to an experiment in Lammot Dupont Lab.”
The controlled detonation took place that same day, and many students affirmed that despite the generally small size of the explosion, it was still an interesting event to witness.
“I mean, I didn’t think it’d be like a nuke, but it was cool,” Cole Schenkel, a freshman economics major, said. “It was about what I expected.”
“I think a lot of people were probably expecting more, based on the amount of people that gathered,” Noah Brecht, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said. “But it was a nice explosion.”
By that night, the campus was back to its original state with students milling about freely. Despite the situation’s turnaround, the day caused an uproar for many, starting the semester off with a bang.
Dear Editor, I thought that your article regarding the denotation on campus last month was very informative. Before I read your article, I assumed most people were worried and concerned about what had happened in the lab. But it was nice to learn that they were amused and watched the police handle the situation as if it was a television show. I remember trying to walk to my night class in Gore that night, I wasn’t able to go through the Green, I had to go up and around it. But by the end of my class, everything returned back to normal. I agree with what some students in your piece mentioned. I thought more was going to come out of this but once it was the next morning it was, it was like it never happened. I also enjoyed how you added the specific chemicals that were involved in this. It was interesting to learn that a student mixed the wrong chemicals and created the “Mother of Satan”.
Although this was entertaining for some students, I think that more precautions should be placed so that this does not happen again. Just because no one was hurt this time does not mean no one will be in the future. What do you think? What are some rules that can be put in place? Let me know what you think. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts!