Yesterday’s 11 a.m. classes began with more than a knock on the desk or a “Good morning, class” from the teacher. Instead, they began with one long beep.
Students received an email from Tech police Chief Randall Hermes last Thursday warning them that the city’s new Siren/Alert Warning System would be tested for the first time that afternoon. Public utilities manager Darrell Caraway said the system will now be tested every Wednesday at 11 a.m.
“Tech is kind of surrounded,” he said. “There are none on campus, but there are around four near it––north, east, south and west. The way the sound propagates it’s better if you’re a little away. You can hear it better.”
Caraway said the system is something the city has been working toward for the last three years.
“It’s mainly for severe weather events, but it can also be used for any other type of dangerous events like chemical spills,” he said.
With the railroad passing through Ruston, chemical spills are events the city should be prepared for, he said.
The system comprises 13 towers scattered throughout Ruston and can be tailored to specific areas for different uses.
“The way we set the system up we don’t have to activate all the towers at once,” Caraway said. “We chose to put in a system that has a voice command so that if we required evacuation just in one area we can verbally give them commands.”
Hermes said he explored the option of a siren system on campus a few years ago but decided to wait to see the city’s solution.
“Dr. King was talking about the possibility of putting it in the clock tower,” he said. “We actually did tests to see how well we could hear those speakers that are there now, and we could tell we would have to upgrade.”
Hermes said a string of tornadoes going through the Midwest prompted Mayor Dan Hollingsworth to make sure Ruston had a system to alert its citizens.
“(Hollingsworth) has always been a strong proponent for Louisiana Tech,” he said. “We were going to make sure those sirens covered campus.”
Caraway said the sirens often cannot be heard inside buildings but come across loud and clear to anyone driving or walking outside. Hermes said the lack of sound inside buildings should not be an issue.
“The priority is for people who are outside buildings,” Hermes said. “In most cases it’s going to help us if there’s a tornado or something headed our way.”
He said the sirens are a nice addition to the Emergency Notification System already in place. Students can sign up for this text-alert system on their BOSS account.
Jed Walpole, a senior supply-chain management major, is already signed up for the ENS.
“I don’t think the sirens make much difference to me,” he said. “I already get texts letting me know when there’s an emergency.”
Walpole said he did not hear the test sirens but being inside of a building could have been the reason.
The weekly tests could give Walpole and other students another chance to hear the sirens.
“The test tone is kind of a beeping tone something you may hear come across the TV,” Caraway said. “The actual seek shelter tone is a steady long tone. It operates for 30 seconds at a time, but it repeats five times for a total of three minutes.”
The towers can do more than beep, however. They are fairly flexible, Caraway said.
He said the system currently only surrounds the city of Ruston but can be expanded to include 160 towers total. Currently the city has no plans to purchase additional towers, but surrounding communities like Choudrant and Simsboro could hear an 11 a.m. beep on Wednesdays in the future.
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