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The University will test the emergency sirens on Feb. 12 between noon and 1 p.m. as part of the Alert Carolina safety awareness campaign. Each semester the University tests the sirens to make sure the equipment works.

During the test, anyone outside on or near campus, including downtown Chapel Hill, will likely hear the sirens. People inside a building or driving a car should not expect to hear them.

The sirens will sound an alert tone along with a brief pre-recorded voice message. When testing is complete, a different siren tone and voice message will signal “All clear. Resume regular activities.”

Other than during a test, the sirens will sound 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.

“The sirens are the fastest way for the University to alert people about a life-threatening emergency on or near campus,” said Chief Jeff McCracken, director of public safety. “We conduct regular tests of the siren system to remind everyone 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 – one when the sirens sound along with a second one to mark the “all clear” – to the 50,000 cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff. 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 to help educate students and faculty about what to do when the sirens sound.

The University uses multiple ways to communicate based on criteria outlined in the Emergency Notification Protocols. The University will inform the campus community using three different types of notifications: Emergency Warning (sirens), Timely Warning and Informational Message. Information about each type of notification is included on Alert Carolina,

As an additional safety measure, students and employees are encouraged to register for the American Red Cross Safe and Well list (, which provides a way for people to let their families know they are OK in the event of an emergency while keeping cell phone lines open for emergency calls. The Alert Carolina website also includes a link to Safe and Well.

Published February 5, 2013.