Security tests emergency siren

The emergency siren that was installed on campus last fall was tested for the first time on April 3. The siren is intended to alert people to an emergency “of the kind we’ve all heard about happening on campuses elsewhere,” said Director of Public Affairs Jim Kolesar in a campus-wide e-mail that was sent out prior to the test.

Though the College has several ways of notifying community members of emergencies, most notably through e-mails, phone calls, the College Web site and text messages, many people do not have continuous access to these modes of communication. Furthermore, Kolesar pointed out, “There are often people on campus who aren’t students, faculty or staff” who would not have access to these alerts. By installing the siren, which sounds from atop both Mission Park and the Science Center, the College has “joined the growing list” of schools taking such precautions, he said.

The test that was conducted on April 3 took place at noon with the siren on its “steady” mode for a scheduled two minutes. According to Jean Thorndike, director of Campus Safety and Security, the test was intended “to ensure the system worked properly [and] to evaluate [its] range and audibility.” Working with town officials from Williamstown and the Williamstown Police Department, the College dispatched personnel all across campus during the test to assess the siren’s range. According to Thorndike, “The outdoor range of the alarm was very good and could be heard at Hopkins Forest, around Field Park, lower Spring Street and in the vicinity of the Elementary School on Church Street.”

Both Kolesar and Thorndike noted that the siren was not particularly audible inside most College buildings. “We are planning to have further discussions as to the interior effectiveness of the siren and if audibility inside campus buildings can be improved,” Thorndike said. She also mentioned that the College might try out other siren modes (for example, the “wail mode” and “pulse wail”) to see which is most effective.

Future tests will be conducted on the first Saturday of every month at noon. They will be “preventative maintenance tests” according to Thorndike, and will therefore only last for about 15 seconds. If there is ever an actual emergency, the siren will sound for a minimum of three minutes; in such a case, said Kolesar in his e-mail, “that means there’s a real emergency and you should immediately check your phone, your e-mail or the college home page to learn how to respond.”