A new siren system will be installed on campus starting April in a continued effort to keep students, faculty and staff informed in the event of an emergency, Vice President of Plant Operations David Irvin said.
The system, modeled after the Houston Civil Defense Siren System, designed in 1953 by current UH System Board of Regents Chairman Welcome Wilson, will employ three towers covering the campus, Irvin said.
"In the 1950s, (people) would have heard the siren and turned on their transistor radios to hear civil defense alerts," Irvin said. "Today, they can go to their e-mail, cell phone, land line or numerous other devices to instantly receive information on what precautions they need to take."
Wilson said in an interview with KHOU the system was originally designed to warn students about attacks from the former Soviet Union.
"High tech can’t do it alone," Wilson told KHOU. "The siren tells everyone there’s an emergency."
UH has been reevaluating emergency protocol following a nationwide spate of college shootings, Irvin said.
"After Virginia Tech (had its shooting), UH undertook a comprehensive review of all our emergency preparedness measures," he said. "While we had already initiated (the) PIER (program), we decided we needed to utilize as many means and methods as possible."
One tower will be on the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting, another on the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center and the third on the west side of campus on the TLCC Annex.
The siren system is a low-cost solution that provides a low-tech way for students who don’t have access to e-mail or text messages to know that something has happened, Irvin said.
"The sirens are an additional layer in ensuring that our campus community is made aware of emergency information in a timely fashion," UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis said.
Installation of the siren system is estimated to cost $41,000. Because it would be difficult to design a system that employs a variety of sounds or tones for specific emergency situations, it is imperative that members of the UH community keep their emergency contact information up to date, Davis said.
"What we do want is that when the siren sounds, everyone on campus knows that something is happening and that they can access emergency information and instructions through their cell phone, laptop, iPod, PDA or other communication device," Davis said.
The siren system was approved for implementation last fall, but because of a backlog in obtaining equipment from manufacturers, installation will begin in April when the equipment arrives at UH, Irvin said.
"The system will require testing but should be operational shortly after May 1," Irvin said.