September 22, 2008
The University of Maine at Fort Kent tested its new campus emergency warning siren system on Tuesday afternoon, and campus officials are calling the test “a huge success” toward safeguarding students, faculty and staff from potential natural disasters and other emergency situations.
The emergency siren system is the “external” piece of the puzzle to notify the campus of potential dangers. The “internal” piece -- the capability to send time-sensitive phone, e-mail and text messages within minutes of an emergency declaration -- is expected to be on-line by the end of the month.
The emergency siren system test enabled UMFK to put the system through a trial run to ensure that the warning siren system functions as it was designed, as well as to acclimate the campus community and nearby neighbors to the sound emitted by the warning system.
A typical warning will consist of ten seconds of siren sound, followed by three horn “blasts,” followed by an audible message. The siren sound, horn blasts and message can be heard within a 1,500-foot radius of the UMFK campus.
The initial tests of the warning system found the “blasts” to be less audible than desired by campus officials. However, by making some relatively minor adjustments to the tone of the notification system, the system’s contractor was able to deliver a better-sounding system.
Subsequent tests revealed a warning that was audible at all points on campus, as well as several off-site locations. A total of five tests of the new system were conducted during the three-hour test period.
“The test of the audible emergency warning system was a huge success,” said UMFK President, Dr. Richard W. Cost.
“Recent national headlines have told us that we must be prepared for situations that we never would have imagined before,” says Dr. Cost. “Fast, accurate communication is vital during any emergency situation. The UMFK Emergency Management Team firmly believes that the new, audible system – along with the time-sensitive phone, email and text notification system that will be operational very shortly – makes our students, faculty and staff far safer from potential threats than they ever have been.”
The University’s warning system was purchased through, and is serviced by, Aroostook Technologies, Inc., a Presque Isle-based electronic parts and equipment company.
The system consists of two, three-horn clusters mounted on masts atop UMFK’s Cyr Hall that can be operated from five different locations on the UMFK campus. The system also can be activated from off-site locations using either a personal or laptop computer.
Eight, pre-recorded emergency messages are available for use to campus emergency response personnel in conjunction with the audible sounds.
The audible campus warning system is just one component of emergency notification new to the UMFK campus this fall.
The University also has contracted with Connect-ED, a service which allows campus administrators and emergency personnel to send time-sensitive notifications within minutes of an emergency declaration.
Through a simple three-step process, UMFK can quickly inform students, faculty, staff, and parents at multiple contact points, including cell phones, home phones, campus phones, PDAs/pagers, e-mail accounts, TTY/TDD devices for the hearing impaired, and networked digital signage. Results of the transmission to each recipient are delivered back to UMFK, upon the call’s completion.
The Connect-Ed service enables UMFK emergency response personnel to schedule, send, and track personalized messages to up to six phone numbers per student, faculty or staff member. Message are sent using voice and text messaging to landline and cell phones, email accounts, PDAs and other text-based devices, and to TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired.
Under the provisions of the federal Virginia Tech Victims Act, universities must disclose and test their emergency and evacuation plans annually. The legislation also requires that schools notify students and faculty members "immediately" upon confirmation of a crisis by campus security personnel.
Following the Virginia Tech tragedy in April 2007, UMFK established a nine-person Emergency Response Team (ERT) to deal with real and potential emergency situations.
The members of the UMFK ERT are: Dr. Rachel E. Albert, vice president for Academic Affairs; Richard Bouchard, director of Facilities Management; Dr. Richard Cost, president; Arthur Drolet, Computer Network specialist; Leslie Kelly, director of Information Services; Terence Kelly, director of University Relations and Alumni Affairs; Tamara Mitchell, executive director of Human Resources; John Murphy, vice president of administration and finance; and Scott Voisine, director of Student Affairs.