University to test emergency sirens Jan. 31

The University will test its emergency sirens between noon - 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 31, as part of Alert Carolina, a campus-wide safety awareness campaign.

Anyone outside on or near campus, including downtown Chapel Hill, may hear the sirens during the test, which checks equipment and reminds students, faculty and staff what to do in an emergency. No action is needed. The sirens will sound an alert tone along with a brief pre-recorded public address message. When testing is complete, a different siren tone and voice message will signal “All clear. Resume normal activities.” Samples of the alert and “all clear” audio tones are available at

During the Jan. 31 test, the University also will send test text messages – one when the sirens sound along with a second one to mark the “all clear” – to more than 47,000 cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. Of those numbers, more than 24,000 belong to students. If you have a UNC ONYEN, you can sign up to receive emergency text message alerts from the University through Alert Carolina.

In an actual emergency, UNC Health Care's plan includes several methods of communication, including overhead announcements, text/pager alerts and e-mail messages.

Alert Carolina background
The University's sirens will only sound for an imminent, life-threatening emergency such as:
•    an armed and dangerous person on or near campus,
•    a major chemical spill or hazard, or
•    a tornado sighting.

If the sirens sound, go inside or take cover immediately. Close windows and doors. Stay until further notice.  The sirens also broadcast short pre-recorded voice messages. When the threat is over, the sirens sound again with a different tone to announce along with the voice message:  “All clear. Resume normal activities.”

“The sirens are our most direct way to quickly tell people about a life-threatening emergency on or near campus,” said Chief Jeff McCracken, director of public safety. “We conduct regular tests to remind everyone what the sirens sound like. We want students, faculty and staff to think about what they would do in a real emergency.”

The sirens are located at Hinton James Residence Hall off Manning Drive; the Gary R. Tomkins Chilled Water Operations Center behind the Dogwood Parking Deck; Winston Residence Hall at the corner of Raleigh Street and South Road; near Hill Hall behind University Methodist Church; and next to University buildings and support facilities near the Giles Horney Building off Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The University also communicates about an emergency through means including campus-wide e-mail and voice mail (only for campus land lines), the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus cable television channels.

The sirens and text messaging were last tested in September 2010. The University will continue regular testing at least once each semester as part of Alert Carolina, launched in March 2008. The campaign educates the campus community about what to do in an emergency and where to go for safety-related information and resources.

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