On Monday Oct. 8, the University of Maine will test its new warning system. At noon, the siren will sound at full blast for three minutes to ensure it is in proper working order. The siren will be audible across campus, but it has yet to be determined how far away it can be heard and what it will sound like.
According to Joe Carr, director of university relations, this is the first part of a three-step test run of the new alarm system. It was decided to have the first test of the siren on a holiday, as it won’t disturb as many residents on campus. This will be the first time the siren will be used since it was installed in September. “We need to be assured it is in proper working order,” Carr said. He said it will be loud and intrusive, but necessary to see that it works.
The second part of the three-part step will be another low-volume test on Oct. 15 at noon, and every Monday thereafter for a few seconds to make sure that it continues to work. The full test, or drill as Carr called it, will happen on Friday, Oct. 19. This test includes sounding the siren at 11:55 a.m. on low volume and escalating it to full volume at noon, which will last three minutes. It will also include postings at umaine.edu and FirstClass, text messages and e-mail through umaine.txt, and a recorded message on 581-INFO. The UMaine Web site will also be updated with current information. UMaine will continue to conduct full-volume tests four times a year, as recommended by the manufacturer.
“After the massacre at Virginia Tech, President Kennedy asked us to put our heads together and devise a multi-level system,” Carr said. He also said many colleges are following a similar model and that UMaine’s system is not unusual.
About 3,000 people have registered for umaine.txt, including faculty, staff and students. Carr expressed concern that more people haven’t signed up. Compared to the number of staff and students, this is not a large number. He said that the first 2,000 signed up quickly, and then it tapered off. Fliers were posted on First Class, and stickers about the warning system were put on the doors to every building and on the doors of every residence hall.
“We’ve taken quite a few steps to get the word out,” Carr said. Via e-mail, Robert Dana, dean of students said that he encouraged faculty, staff and students to sign up for the program. Leading up to the tests, there will be more public information and education programs, and that he expects more users will sign up then.
He said that the reason more people haven’t signed up is possibly that people feel safe and don’t think something bad could happen at UMaine, so they haven’t felt the need to sign up for the program. He also said that we need to be prepared because most bad things are unexpected and the program is a comprehensive approach to safety. “It’s a simple process.” Carr said.
Carr said he thinks that this system will help make UMaine a safer community. The feedback he has gotten from parents and students has been postive so far. Dana said the preparation is the key to managing a crisis and full readiness is the best solution.
“We think we’re on the right track,” Carr said.