March 27, 2008

C.U. Installs Sirens On Campus

Print More

In an attempt to improve security and safety on campus, the University installed emergency sirens on the roofs of Mary Donlon Hall, the Hans Bethe House, the Veterinary Medical Center and Bartels Hall over Spring Break. The $250,000 project is expected to improve the efficiency of Cornell’s emergency notification system.
The battery-powered sirens were installed on mounting poles, which were lifted and placed on the reinforced roofs of the four designated buildings by cranes. The project should be completed this week and testing should commence the following week.
Cornell’s Planning, Design and Construction Department is working with Mid-State Communications and the Merit Electric Company to install the sirens.
“The sirens, which can be activated from Cornell Police dispatch, will improve Cornell’s ability to notify people of an emergency situation. The sirens will sound a three minute alert tone and will also have the ability to broadcast a pre-recorded or live message with instructions on what actions should be taken to avoid danger,” said Joe Lalley, director of administration and operations support and interim director of IT for risk management and public safety.
Over the course of the past year, several measures have been taken in order to make the new emergency notification system as effective as possible. Engineers performed site studies in order to find the locations on campus where there is optimal sound coverage.
The University also collaborated with the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response to ensure that the sound of the sirens would not be confused with any other alert systems in the area.
After the shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, universities and colleges across the country have stepped up their security measures and installed sirens similar to Cornell’s.
“The tragedy at Northern Illinois pointed out that you can’t just rely on high tech systems to get the word out about an emergency. Text message notifications just aren’t fast enough. Anytime there is an immediate threat on campus where seconds count, the low tech push technology of the sirens will be able to alert everyone immediately,” Lalley said.
Over the past several years, the University has done a lot to make the campus safer, including establishing an e-mail notification system. E-mail notifications can be sent within thirty minutes of an emergency. Also, Cornell has recently implemented text and voice message notification systems, which send advisories directly to student and staff cell phones.
“Cornell is an open campus, so there is no way to completely secure it. There are thousands of open doors and the campus is located in a small city. However, we’ve taken a lot of steps in order to improve security,” said Allen Bova, director of risk management.
The new siren emergency notification system will be able to alert everyone on campus at the same time, even in situations where computers and cell phones are not present.
Even though the sirens will be loud, the new security measure may not be as intrusive as other possible security measures.
“There are more ways to improve campus security. However, we have to balance the need of students’ security with their need of privacy as well. We don’t want Cornell to become a police state,” Bova said.
Many students reacted positively to the installation of the sirens.
“It seems like the sirens are going to be a lot more effective than the text message notifications. Sometimes I would get them hours after my friends did,” Marlene Wang ’11 said.
Students have become more aware of the importance of security measures following recent tragedies.
“After the recent school shootings at Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech, it’s good to have an effective emergency notification system on campus. We may think that it could never happen at Cornell but, in reality, a school shooting can happen anywhere, at anytime,” said Ben Reich ’11.