Sirens No Longer Include Recorded Message

Police will launch tone-only warning sirens during DukeALERT test on March 19

Beginning with the March 19 test of the DukeALERT emergency notification system, the sirens that comprise the outdoor warning system will no longer include a pre-recorded message.

When the sirens wail for a test or emergency situation, Duke community members and visitors who are outside will only hear a tone as part of the alert, which may be repeated during real emergencies.

Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration and emergency coordinator, said that over the years, there has been consistent feedback from students and employees about the sirens' pre-recorded message being difficult to hear and understand. While the sirens are intended and designed for individuals outdoors, community members who were indoors during tests noted in surveys that they could not understand the message.

"I am in MSRB-1 building. I heard the siren, but I did not understand a word of what they were saying," a community member wrote in a survey after a system test last year.

The new siren tone is considered an "all hazards" alert to get the community's attention and will be activated for any type of emergency that requires people to take shelter immediately.

When the sirens go off in a campus emergency, Cavanaugh suggested community members consider the acronym, "S.O.S." He explained it this way: Seek shelter immediately, Obtain information from DukeALERT emails and text messages and and Stay tuned for further instructions.

"We want to stress that the siren system is one of several alerting mechanisms, and its primary goal is to alert people outdoors of potential danger," Cavanaugh said.

Police still maintain the capability to broadcast a live message through the siren system in any situation at any time.

During tests like the one on March 19, Cavanaugh said Duke community members do not need to follow the "S.O.S." guidelines. They will first receive a DukeALERT email or text message, alerting them of the test, and then the sirens will be activated. The test will also include activation of the DukeALERT website.

"In a test, students, staff and faculty should take time to understand how they will be notified in the event of a life-threatening emergency like a tornado sighting and what they should do," Cavanaugh said.

As part of the system test on March 19, Duke community members are encouraged to respond to an online survey to assess the effectiveness of various DukeALERT communication methods. The survey will be posted on the DukeALERT website once the test begins.