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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will test its emergency sirens on Tuesday, Feb. 11, between noon and 1 p.m. as part of Alert Carolina, a campus-wide safety awareness campaign.

Anyone outside on or near campus, including downtown Chapel Hill and locations near the William and Ida Friday Continuing Education Center and University facilities off Martin Luther King Boulevard north of campus, may hear the sirens during the test. No action is required. The sirens will sound an alert tone along with a brief pre-recorded public address message. When testing is complete, a different siren tone and voice message will signal “All clear. Resume regular activities.” Samples of the alert and “all clear” audio tones are available at

The sirens sound only for a major emergency or an immediate safety or health threat such as:

  • An armed and dangerous person on or near campus;
  • A major chemical spill or hazard;
  • A tornado warning for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area issued by the National Weather Service; or
  • A different emergency, as determined by the Department of Public Safety.

If the sirens sound, go inside or take cover immediately. Close windows and doors. Stay until further notice. The sirens also broadcast short pre-recorded voice messages. When the threat is over, the sirens sound again with a different tone to announce along with the voice message: “All clear. Resume regular activities.”

“The sirens are the fastest way for the University to alert people about a major emergency or life-threatening situation on or near campus,” said Chief Jeff McCracken, director of public safety. “We conduct regular tests of the siren system so people will be familiar with what the sirens sound like and to help our students, faculty and staff think about what to do in an actual emergency.”

During the test, the University will send test text messages to the nearly 50,000 cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff – one when the sirens sound and a second one to mark the “all clear.” In an emergency, the University also will post safety-related announcements on the Alert Carolina website (

In 2012 the University put up posters in every classroom, and plans are underway to display additional posters in every office on campus, to help educate students and faculty about what to do when the sirens sound. You can view the posters on the Alert Carolina website at

People outside on or near campus may hear the sirens at six locations:  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; University buildings and support facilities near the Giles Horney Building off Martin Luther King Boulevard; and near the William and Ida Friday Continuing Education Center about three miles east of the central campus. If you are inside a building or driving in a car, don’t expect to hear the sirens.

The sirens and text messaging were last tested in September 2013. The University will continue regular testing at least once each semester as part of Alert Carolina, launched in March 2008.

The University uses multiple ways to reach students, faculty and staff based on criteria outlined in the Emergency Notification Protocols, which were adopted in 2011. The University will inform the campus community using four different types of notifications: Emergency Warning (sirens), Timely Warning (text and email), Informational Message (email) and Adverse Weather Message (text and email).

Published February 5, 2014.