CruzAlert received its first opportunity to alert students of a potential threat to campus safety on Thursday morning.
An automated voice message, multiple text messages and e-mails generated by the CruzAlert system were sent out to students, staff and faculty at about 9 a.m. Thursday. The alerts came in response to a “suspicious device off campus main gate,” found in a storm drain located at the main entrance.
Most who were trying to get to campus had to take alternative routes. Those on foot had to take a detour that brought them around the Women’s Center, while cars were redirected to the west entrance.
In a rush, third-year Doug Anderson was forced to speed-walk up Hagar Hill. Anderson was unable to get to his job on time.
“I got the CruzAlert that said to avoid the base,” Anderson said. “Now I am an hour late for work.”
The “suspicious device” that caused those to redirect was later identified as a geocache.
A geocache is a small container that is part of a treasure-hunting game. This device often holds hints needed to find the next geocache. Geocachers also use a global positioning system (GPS) to locate other geocaches that further advance them in the game.
According to Geocaching.com, there are over 300 geocaches hidden in Santa Cruz and 21 located on university grounds. The website confirmed that this specific geocache, called “de hole,” was planted in October 2008.
Users told those who wanted to find “de hole” to “crawl to the end of this tunnel until it opens up and intersects with two other tunnels. The cache is a decon container. Do not remove what is holding into place, just take the lid off.”
This is not the first time that a geocache has aroused suspicion. Last month the Colorado Daily News reported on a similar event when a geocache was mistaken for a bomb at Fair View High School in Boulder, Colo.
As in the Colorado case, the false alarm brought inconvenience to students. Metro and university buses began the reroute at around about 9 a.m.
Even after it was identified as a geocache, the bomb squad treated the device with caution.
Members of the bomb squad set up a small water cannon and then chanted “Fire in the hole, fire in the hole,” before activating the water cannon.
Bomb squad members wearing blast-protective gear then picked up the geocache and the road was opened shortly after.