- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

Virginia Tech’s campus Thursday, authorities said.

Police secured Pritchard Hall around 1 p.m. after two people reported hearing something that sounded like gunfire. Officials searched every room in the 1,000-student dormitory, and reopened it two hours later after finding no evidence of gunshots.

Witnesses told police the sounds were like firecrackers going off, but officers found an exploded cartridge from a nail gun near trash bins outside the building. Police theorized that someone mechanically exploded the construction shell, possibly by slamming the lid of a trash bin, and the sound echoed.

There are several construction projects nearby, campus police spokesman Lenny Session said, and authorities were looking for two men who apparently set the cartridge off.

The situation was a test for the university’s emergency response procedures for alerting students of possible danger. Those methods were revised after a gunman killed 32 people and himself in a 2007 rampage.

Police responded to the dormitory within a minute of the report, campus spokesman Larry Hincker said, and the campus was alerted with messages sent to e-mails, to cell phones, on the school Web page and to classroom message boards. At least two of the alerts sent to cell phones didn’t work because of a problem with a subcontractor, the university said.

Mina Sharobim, a sophomore resident adviser at Pritchard Hall, said he didn’t hear any loud noises, but spoke with police officers who were conducting the building search.

“Especially with the things that have happened here, you never can be too careful,” he said.

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