GRANGEVILLE – A Grangeville man faces a felony charge for making a false bomb threat last week that resulted in a lockdown of Syringa Hospital and disrupted patient services for more than three hours.
Tony Lloyd Anderson was arrested and booked into the Idaho County Jail on Friday, Sept. 26, and is currently out on $50,000 bail, awaiting an Oct. 7 arraignment in magistrate court on the felony charge.
Anderson is a surgery technician employed by the hospital. He is alleged to have called in a bomb threat to the hospital at 6:04 a.m., according to the Grangeville Police Department (GPD). As a result, Syringa Hospital went into lockdown procedures – no one was allowed to enter or exit the facility – and both Grangeville and Idaho County law enforcement officers conducted an interior and exterior sweep of the building for a possible explosive device; no bomb was found.
According to Syringa Hospital CEO Joe Cladouhos, the threat phone call was received by a staff member from a person stating, “Brace yourself — There is a bomb in the hospital.”
“And that was it, and the caller hung up,” said GPD Police Chief Morgan Drew said. “It was very, very general; no location, no type.”
Drew said two GPD and Idaho County Sheriff’s Office personnel conducted searches of patient rooms and staff areas, and once these were cleared worked outward to sweep the remainder of the facility.
About a dozen staff and the seven inpatients were allowed to remain in the rooms while the search was in progress; “No one was in danger during the search,” Cladouhos said, and no evacuations were implemented. He said the incident came at a shift change, so some oncoming staff were diverted to Syringa’s therapy building or the Soltman Center, or to return home for a call to come in later. Patients would have been evacuated from the building if there were a credible threat, “but we didn’t have to,” he said.
During this incident, St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood was also notified that Syringa’s emergency department was closed and would be on diversion status for any incoming emergencies, which there was none, according to Cladouhos.
State resources were put on standby in the event a bomb-sniffing dog were needed, according to Drew; however, nothing suspicious was located. Along with the interior, ICSO deputies assisted in an exterior search of the hospital. Overall, the hospital was in lockdown until 9:30 a.m. – though three nurses were allowed to come in to maintain patient care, Cladouhos said — until law enforcement cleared from the scene and staff returned to work.
“To have something like this happen is pretty bad,” Cladouhos said, and such an incident is a first for him in his 28 years in hospital administration. He generally estimates the hospital lost thousands of dollars in business as a result of the lockdown. The incident delayed patient breakfasts as cooks couldn’t be allowed in, he said, and heavily impacted was the clinic, which opens at 7:30 a.m., but last Thursday didn’t resume business until 10 a.m. Patient appointments started backing up, which made it difficult for some who were waiting on pain medication injections.
This is believed to be the first bomb threat made against the hospital in its 75-year existence. The last bomb hoax incident in town was made at Grangeville High School in April. MVSD 244 is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest in that incident.
Cladouhos said staff would be meeting this week to debrief on how bomb threat protocol was handled during this incident – the first time it was implemented – and to see what could be improved. One change as a result of this, he said, would be providing master keys in lockboxes for law enforcement to quickly access all areas of the facility without having to wait on staff. One measure already in place, which will help law enforcement in its investigation, according to Cladouhos, are the facility’s 22 security cameras.
Anderson has been employed with Syringa Hospital since Aug. 1, 2012. Cladouhos said he has been placed on administrative leave pending resolution of the legal process, and he is not to come onto hospital property or discuss the matter with employees.
“Terrific,” Cladouhos said, regarding the quick reaction to the incident by city and county law enforcement and a subsequent thorough inside and outside search. “If that’s what we can come to expect from the Grangeville Police Department and sheriff’s department, it was an outstanding response,” he continued, and complimented officers on their helpfulness and professionalism. “It was a tremendous help to work with them. We’re fortunate to have that expertise.”