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Stanford Putting Up Emergency Sirens

Stanford University is preparing to install an outdoor siren system that would be activated during an emergency. Meant to supplement the university's current emergency-notification measures, the system will consist of three sirens mounted on 50-foot poles and four installed on the roofs of buildings across campus.

Emergencies that would trigger use of the sirens could include a hostage situation, shooter on campus, large chemical release, or other situations that pose a life-safety threat. Those authorized to activate the system include senior administrators in public safety, emergency management, and university communications, as well as the president and provost.

Stanford currently has a mass-notification system in place called AlertSU, built with Connect-ED, a product that Blackboard acquired when it bought The NTI Group. In the event of an emergency, the university can send out time-sensitive information directly to students, staff, and faculty simultaneously via e-mail, voice mail, and text messages to cellular phones or any other devices listed in the system.

The siren system will be capable of emitting a range of tones and blare notification, as well as verbal messages. During an emergency, tones might differ depending on the severity of the situation, for instance, and instructions to evacuate or take shelter--or make announcements--can be communicated instantly.

Emergency planners say the noise level will be at about 70 decibels at the perimeter of campus when the sirens are on, which is comparable to the volume of a vacuum cleaner. The system will be tested during and immediately after installation, and then twice annually--in April and October--in conjunction with Stanford's other emergency-notification tools. During tests, the sirens will be on at full volume for about 30 seconds.

Prior to testing, e-mail notifications will be sent campus wide, as well as to residents in the area of the campus and local city and school officials. The project, headed by emergency-management staff in Environmental Health and Safety, may be completed by the end of January 2009.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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