Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem City Council briefed on Liberty Hight School emergency response

Officials say response protocol 'worked just as it should'

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem City Council was briefed during Wednesday night's agenda meeting on the performance of first responders who raced to Liberty High School and placed it on lock down following a report of three gunmen entering the school Wednesday afternoon.

Officials later said the report was a hoax.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio told council Wednesday night that the protocol in place for such emergency response situations does work.

"We had 40 city police, fire and EMS personnel respond (to a 911 call) in addition to Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI, which is protocol now when a school is involved," DiLuzio said.

"The information we had was that there was a male in the school with guns at about 12:40 p.m. Then, we had a report that a gunshot had been fired and another report that someone was in a classroom with a weapon. It was all inaccurate and unfounded," DiLuzio added.

Deputy Police Chief Todd Repscher said the response team mustered at the intersection of Locust and Maple streets.

"A parent of a student (called the 911 center) and said he got a message from his child that there was a gun in the school. It was a third-hand, Facebook kind of thing."

Bethlehem Fire Chief Robert Novotnack said three people were treated at the scene, one for a diabetic reaction, one for overheating and a local resident who walked up to paramedics seeking aid.

"It worked just as it should," Novotnack said. "The follow through from EMS, fire and police was well organized and ran smoothly. It was difficult on parents who wanted to get their children out of the school."

Liberty High School, located at 1115 Linden St. in Bethlehem, was locked down for about four hours, Repscher said, as officers combed through the building searching for possible suspects.

"The cooperation between the school district and the city was excellent," said Mayor Robert Donchez.

Council President J. William Reynolds said the city's emergency response was fantastic.

"It was a trying day. Thankfully the threat wasn't there, and while it's something you don't want to see, the emergency responders were completely up to the task," Reynolds said.

Repscher and DiLuzio said an investigation into the incident continues. Repscher said any suspects could be charged with risking catastrophe and filing false reports and false alarms.

In other business, councilman Eric Evans said the Bethlehem Safety Committee will decide at its May 6 meeting whether to extend the term of the executive director of the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

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