Carolina Alert: 48,000 Text Messages Launched Within 64 Seconds


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The University today (Jan. 31) successfully tested emergency sirens and text-message delivery as part of the Alert Carolina safety awareness campaign.

The sirens sounded an alert tone at 12:10 p.m. in conjunction with a brief pre-recorded public address message broadcast from five locations. The siren activation was followed by a test text message to cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory.

The sirens, which worked properly, are located at Hinton James Residence Hall off Manning Drive; the Gary R. Tomkins Chilled Water Operations Center behind the Dogwood Parking Deck; Winston Residence Hall at the corner of Raleigh Street and South Road; near Hill Hall behind University Methodist Church; and next to University buildings and support facilities near the Giles Horney Building off Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Text messages started being sent to more than 48,000 cell phone numbers at 12:14 p.m. Delivery was attempted to all of those numbers within 64 seconds. And 90 percent of those messages were delivered within just under seven minutes. More than 24,000 of the currently registered cell phone numbers belong to students.

Director of Public Safety Jeff McCracken stressed that the sirens and text messages are the two most immediate ways UNC can inform people about an emergency.

“With today’s test, we’re asking everyone if they know what to do in an emergency,” McCracken said. “We only sound the sirens for an imminent, life-threatening emergency. Be prepared to go inside immediately and wait for updates on the Alert Carolina website or in subsequent text messages.”

In an actual emergency, the sirens would sound if an armed and dangerous person was on or near campus, a major chemical spill or hazard had been reported or a tornado was sighted. The sirens also could sound for a different emergency, as determined by the Department of Public Safety, for which a general siren and alert message would be activated.

When the sirens sound, people should go inside or take cover immediately, close windows and doors, and stay until the “all clear” message sounds. The sirens are not designed to be heard in buildings or while driving in vehicles. And there can be limitations with text messaging if there are problems with cell phone service.

University officials emphasize that the sirens and text messages are part of a multi-layered approach to communicating with the campus in an emergency. Those efforts are anchored by alertcarolina.unc.edu. The University also communicates through means including campus-wide e-mail and voice mail (only for campus land lines), the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus cable television channels.

University officials also stress that it may take time in an emergency for authorities to investigate the situation, verify the facts and provide the campus with instructions. Don’t call 911 or the UNC Department of Public Safety for general information. The Alert Carolina website will provide new details as quickly as possible.

Contact: Mike McFarland, University Relations, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu

For more information contact: News Services
voice: (919) 962-2091
voice: (919) 216-2584
news@unc.edu

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