Claremont police respond to bomb threat at Valley Regional Hospital

  • Claremont Police Sgt. Trevor Dickerman blocks an entrance to Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, N.H., on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. A bomb threat had been made to the hospital earlier in the day. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2021 2:08:08 PM
Modified: 12/17/2021 10:08:35 PM

CLAREMONT — Police blocked off entrances to Valley Regional Hospital, evacuated outpatient clinics and turned away people with afternoon appointments on Friday as they investigated a bomb threat at the facility. The lockdown occurred a day after police were posted at the hospital’s entrance when staff reported threatening phone calls regarding a man’s COVID-19 treatment.

Police Chief Mark Chase said authorities had responded to an “external threat,” but confirmed it was a bomb threat. He said an employee saw the threat written outside on hospital grounds.

“The Claremont Police Department is dealing with a situation in and around Valley Regional Hospital. We are asking the public to avoid the area while we conduct our investigation,” police said in a Facebook post around noon. The department issued another release around 6 p.m., announcing that the building had been “deemed safe” and that “there is no danger to the public.”

In spite of police deeming the campus safe, the hospital will remain in lockdown due to the threats and “out of an abundance of caution,” hospital officials said in a Friday evening statement.

“Patient care within the hospital has not been impacted,” the statement said.

Valley Regional this week increased security after it said it received threatening telephone calls regarding a patient under its care. An online group started a social media campaign giving contact information for providers when the family of a COVID-19 patient called upon the hospital to respond to their demands for alternative treatment.

Chase said it’s not clear if the bomb threat on Friday was related to the threats from the prior day. While it’s not unusual for police officers to be called to the hospital, Chase said it was “not a common event” for officers to respond to the hospital two days in a row for safety threats like these.

A K-9 from the State Police Explosive Disposal Unit could be seen entering the hospital during the afternoon. Police continued to block exits for several hours while they searched the campus.

“I don’t know how many people we turned away,” Chase said, noting that the hospital provides important services for residents.

Claremont Police Sgt. Trevor Dickerman, whose cruiser blocked the hospital’s main entrance, advised a pair of Charlestown residents to call the hospital hourly to see when they might be able to obtain a paper copy of their COVID-19 test results.

They said they hoped to get the paper copy to bring with them to the Canadian border. They were planning to visit family they hadn’t seen in two years.

A Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team helicopter was parked near the hospital’s emergency department for several hours on Friday, while the police were conducting their investigation. In addition to Claremont and state police, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the scene and two Claremont firetrucks were parked in nearby Barnes Park.

Claremont schools also were closed on Friday after “general threats” were reported against schools throughout the country and discussion spread on the social media site TikTok.

The city has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a number of residents remain unvaccinated.

“At this point I’m hoping that everybody does their best to continue to stay safe,” said City Councilor Dale Girard, who will become mayor next month. He said he hopes people “are being respectful” and wearing masks as needed.

Girard, who owns Golden Cross Ambulance, said he is fully vaccinated with a booster shot but acknowledged that others in the city are not.

“Everyone has their own thoughts on the vaccine, and we’re never going to change some folks’ mind,” he said.

He said the intervention by the outside group is “very concerning,” and that Valley Regional officials are doing the best they can to provide care in the pandemic.

“I know our hospital is doing a great job of taking care of patients,” Girard said. “They are trying to move patients to other facilities when necessary, but it’s very difficult to find beds,” with one patient having to be taken to a hospital in Connecticut.

Police are conducting an investigation into the source of the threat. People can share information with the Claremont Police Department anonymously by calling 603-542-7026 ext. 1234.

Valley News staff writer John Gregg contributed to this report. Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at 603-727-3213 or ndoyleburr@vnews.com.




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