Torn up about (absent) tornado sirens


A siren pierces the skies, a long sustained blast echoing through the storm. People instinctively seek shelter, as the storm front increases its fury. Winds whip around and begin to swirl into a vortex that tears through homes, indiscriminately destroying anything in its path.

This visual is one that we fortunately did not see play out over the weekend on campus.

We got incredibly lucky that this scenario did not play out, but to me, it pointed out some glaring weaknesses in the warning system we have on campus. The only warning siren I heard came from Oakwood’s siren, and it was only faintly audible. Sure, there is a siren located on top of Kettering Labs, but realistically, in a severe storm, there is next to no way that the entire UD Community is going to be able to hear that siren in a severe storm capable of sprouting tornados, especially not on the Dark Side.

The most important part of being able to remain safe in an emergency is adequate warning. Back home, I work for a Scout Camp, and we have two Cold War era air raid sirens that serve as our Emergency Alert Sirens.

It was last summer though, that I learned how impressive our alert system is. The camp staff received two letters this summer, from the nearby Girl Scout Camp, and a Retreat Center that is a half mile up the road from us. Both facilities let us know that while they have their own alert systems, they have lately been following the mantra of “If Firelands (the Scout Camp I work for) sets off its emergency sirens, we know there is something up” and how our camp sets the tone for several facilities in the region. Where I come from, my camp is the shining beacon to the rest of the community, alerting them to dangers with plenty of time to batten down the hatches and get to cover.

UD has always prided itself on Commitment to Community, and on the whole, I agree that we live up to that standard. As a campus, we have our own rescue squad, police force, newspaper and can be a very self-sustaining entity. That is, until a Tornado threatens to strike. Then it seems like that standard is not quite met.

This weekend’s storm proved that safety procedures, while in place, may not be the most well-known by the general student population, and that our early warning system is woefully lacking. It is so very important, in any emergency, that there be some degree of warning time to get to cover before things get bad. It is also very important to make sure everyone has at least some idea of what to do. Scared, frantic people can be as much of a hazard as the emergency itself.

Warning sirens are a fantastic way of letting people know very quickly that there is something wrong going on and that they should seek shelter. However, the siren of Kettering Labs is not nearly sufficient to alert the entire campus population, I would guess at least two sirens, one near the Ghetto and one near the Dark Side would be much better at getting everyone’s attention. The other really good option is the text messages or emails that clutter the data-streams of the twenty-first century.

I personally do not care how any warning system for emergencies is implemented, just that one is and that it works.

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