In Fall 2013, the University updated the Alert Carolina System Protocols for responding to a tornado warning or watch issued by the National Weather Service.

The University will send out notifications when there are tornado warnings that are specific for Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The University will also send out notifications when there are tornado watches that are specific to Orange County.

Tornado Warning: Take Action!

If the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado warning for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the University will activate the emergency sirens for a significant emergency or immediate threat to the health or safety of people on campus.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted, or that radar indicates a thunderstorm circulation that can spawn a tornado, for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, according to the National Weather Service.

You need to take immediate safety precautions:

  • Seek shelter immediately.
  • Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.
  • Avoid windows.
  • If no shelter is available, lie down in a low-lying area.
  • Protect yourself from flying debris.

Alert Carolina will send a text message to registered cell phones and start other notifications including campus e-mail.


Tornado Watch: Be Prepared!

If the weather service issues a tornado watch for Orange County, the University will send a campus e-mail and other notifications.

A watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. The weather service says people in these areas should be on the lookout for threatening weather conditions and listen for later statements and possible warnings.

You need to be prepared:

  • Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies in your safe room.
  • Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.
  • Acting early helps save lives!

Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur.

The weather service updates this information regularly, so be sure to check the National Weather Service website listing the current status of watches, warnings or advisories for Orange County at

The University will not send additional text, e-mail or other notifications to the campus community about a tornado watch since the status of those often change frequently during a weather event. If a new weather pattern enters the area that prompts a fresh watch after a 24-hour period, the University will reissue the watch notice as part of the ongoing monitoring efforts for potential serious weather conditions.

Additional Information

Specific information about preparing laboratories and protecting research in the event of a tornado watch or a tornado warning is included on the Department of Environment, Health and Safety website.