New Siren system installed for protection

The skies are blue and the weather is perfect. It’s one of those days that everyone wishes for. Then you hear it: loud sirens echo across campus,  and questions flood your mind. It’s not raining,  no people are running for cover. You glance at your watch realizing two things: It’s Friday, and it’s 11:55 a.m.

Many students, faculty and staff have been wondering about the sirens that echo every Friday. Through research and for the safety of the campus, a new siren alert system was installed in two separate locations on campus.

It became apparent to leaders that it would be beneficial for security purposes to add a mass notification system.

Director of Risk Management, Larry Pointer, said that the decision to research different safety precautions was due to a series of incidents that occurred on other campuses.

“Because of  serious injuries, and in some cases deaths, on other campuses that it became apparent that a mass notification system, or a combination of systems, was necessary to provide critical information to the UMHB community, including students, faculty, staff and visitors,” he said.

The idea was presented and was approved.

“Consequently, the reverse 911 phone notification systems and the campus siren system were approved and funded by UMHB leadership to facilitate an enhanced level of security,” he said.

Pointer said that because of the extensive research “UMHB is well prepared to respond to a variety of crisis situations. The UMHB Critical Incident Management Plan is designed to guide the Critical Incident Management Team in responding to crisis situations like tornados, fires, hazardous materials incidents and shootings on or in the vicinity of the campus.”

In 2006 research was taking place as leaders at UMHB were drawn together to come up with a way that the entire campus could be alerted at one time that there is an impending emergency.

Gary Sargent, director of campus police, said, “In the past we relied on e-mail, telephone contacts and computer generated messaging. As we looked at that, it really requires someone to be standing by a telephone or sitting at a computer. We began looking at technology that was developing to see how we might be able to enhance our capabilities.”

Sargent said the university is smart to have a plan before anything drastic has occurred.

“We are ahead of the curve. We have been very fortunate that we have initiated action prior to major events occurring across the country. The university is very concerned about the safety of our campus and is taking significant steps to improve safety.”

The higher education act was signed into law this year. There is now a requirement that universities provide a timely  mass notification for students.

“Our position basically is that the siren activation says there is an emergency on campus (and to) move indoors and shelter in place,” Sargent said.

Everyone needs to be aware of the precautions that should be taken when the siren is activated going off for several minutes.

“We need to develop within the dormitories and the academic buildings a means of insuring everyone inside the building knows that the system has been activated and what steps need to be taken in response to that,” he said.

Edward Martin, vice president for business and finance said that ways in which to respond to the alarm will be provided during this semester.

“Training is planned as soon as  the system is considered ready for use,” Martin said.

The UMHB Safety Manual contains an emergency preparedness section that includes guidance on situations such as fire and life safety, shelter in place and weather emergencies.The Safety Manual is posted on the UMHB intranet site under information and policies and will be able to explain the proper procedures.

Martin said the alert system could benefit the community as well.

“The sirens are primarily focused on the campus but will enhance civil defense sirens from the city of Belton.”

The leaders of UMHB security and safety strive to raise the bar on gaining the most efficient alarm system needed for the university.

“(We) will continue to prepare for various emergencies,” Pointer said. “In respect to the recently installed sirens, when they are activated, all personnel should take shelter immediately and monitor the e-mail and phone notification systems for important information that will be provided to advise everyone about the emergency. The safety and well-being of the entire UMHB family is a high priority.”

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