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USF installs emergency warning sirens on Tampa campus



Siren-install TAMPA -- If the University of South Florida is ever the scene of a Virginia Tech-style rampage, students, faculty and staff will be alerted by eight emergency sirens recently installed around campus.

The sirens, a throwback to the civil defense warning systems of the Cold War, are being installed and will be tested in coming weeks, the university announced today. As soon as next week, people on campus could hear chimes or a few words being spoken over the loudspeakers as the system is hooked up.

Each has a siren, strobe light and loudspeaker and is capable of sending out a loud warning noise, followed by a very short message. The sirens are designed to give students and others a first warning about an emergency. Other information would be available through text messages, the school's Web site or digital signs on campus. The system could be used to send alerts on tornadoes, chemical spills or fires.

The sirens are an example of the emergency notification systems that college campuses are adopting in the wake of the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University. That day, 33 people, including the shooter, died in the deadliest attack by a single gunman in U.S. history.

In January 2008, USF created a Division of Public Safety to coordinate the university's emergency response plans, campus police, parking enforcement and other security activities.

Since then, the office has rounded up cell phone numbers for every student and employee. It is now in a position to send mass text messages to more than 50,700 people. Last year, campus police created a tactical response team trained to be the first responders to an emergency. The team's training includes responding to a shooting scenario.

The university also is laying the groundwork for a coordinated emergency notification system that would combine the sirens, text messages, e-mail, USF's home page and digital display screens stationed throughout the campus.

-- Richard Danielson, Times staff writer (Photo of similar siren installation at Duke University)

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:22am]


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