Alert Carolina siren, text message test successful

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wednesday (Aug. 20) successfully tested its emergency sirens as well as text-message delivery as part of the Alert Carolina safety awareness campaign.

The sirens sounded an alert tone in conjunction with a brief pre-recorded public address message. The test siren activation was followed by two test text messages – one for when the sirens initially sounded and another for the “all clear” – to cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory.

The sirens are located at Hinton James Residence Hall off Manning Drive; the Gary R. Tomkins Chilled Water Operations Center behind the Dogwood Parking Deck; Winston Residence Hall at the corner of Raleigh Street and South Road; near Hill Hall behind University Methodist Church; and next to University buildings and support facilities near the Giles Horney Building off Martin Luther King Boulevard; as well as at the Friday Center, located about three miles east of the central campus.

Text messages were sent to 44,356 unique cell phone numbers registered to students, faculty and staff, with 90 percent of the siren activation messages delivered within 6.5 minutes. That means 113 messages, on average, were delivered per second. In addition, the University sent 55,066 emails for both the initial siren activation and “all clear”; the send time for delivery of 90 percent of the test messages was approximately 17 minutes and for the “all clear” messages, 29 minutes. Because it is so important to get emergency-related information to people as quickly as possible, University officials constantly work to improve the delivery times for Alert Carolina messages.

In an actual emergency, the sirens would sound if an armed and dangerous person was on or near campus, a major chemical spill or hazard had been reported or a tornado warning was issued for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area by the National Weather Service. The sirens also could sound for a different emergency, as determined by the Department of Public Safety, for which a general siren and alert message would be activated.

When the sirens sound, people should go inside or take cover immediately, close windows and doors, and stay until the “all clear” message sounds. The sirens are not designed to be heard inside buildings or while driving in vehicles. And there can be limitations with text messaging if there are problems with cell phone service or if users are out of service range.

To help educate faculty, staff and students about what to do when the sirens sound for a significant emergency or immediate threat to health and safety, the University created and distributed “What You Should Do For An Emergency Warning” posters to all campus classrooms, offices, residence halls and laboratory spaces. The poster is accessible at

University officials emphasize that the sirens and text messages are part of a multi-layered approach to communicating in an emergency. Those efforts are anchored by The University also communicates through means including campus-wide email and voice mail (only for campus land lines), official University social media accounts, the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 919-843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus cable television channels.