WCU installs, tests new siren system

If you were on or near the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee on June 11 or 12, you may have heard some very loud, intermittent wailing sounds. And that’s a good thing, because WCU has just installed and tested a new, combination siren and public address system, controlled by campus police.

Signals from the tower-mounted system will reach across the entire campus and into neighborhoods nearby, said Police Chief Tom Johnson. The system, which cost about $100,000, includes a variety of alert tones, a library of prerecorded messages that can be used to respond to natural or manmade emergencies, and a manual override to enable spoken messages from campus police.

Once the system is fully in place, the university will provide guidelines for the proper response when the sirens sound, including when to leave an area or when to shelter in place, where to find additional details on the Web, and other necessary precautions.

“This new alarm system is part of the university’s commitment to the safety of the campus community. It is the latest step in the process of making sure we have the safest campus possible,” Johnson said.

Three towers that currently hold the siren/PA loudspeakers are located at the intersection of Centennial and Central drives behind the Graham Building, on the edge of the intramural field near the Ramsey Regional Activity Center, and on the west side of campus near the entrance to the track/soccer complex. Additional towers may be located on the Millennial Initiative property as that area is developed, Johnson said.

A series of regularly scheduled siren tests will be announced in the future to keep the new system in good working order and to get people used to responding.