Murray State University officials expect emergency sirens to be operational on the Kentucky campus in about a month, part of an effort to enhance security procedures that can warn of violence or severe weather.
President Randy Dunn said Murray State is a safe campus, but deadly shootings at Virginia Tech last year and more recently at Northern Illinois University prompted Murray State officials to evaluate campus technology and the readiness to respond to any emergency.
“We cannot take safety for granted,” Dunn said last week as the school demonstrated some warning procedures that are already operational. “We want to have the means to respond to any emergency on campus. It will be an ongoing process, a continued preparedness effort.”
During the demonstration, held on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, a recorded message sounding from a university telephone alerted a room full of people to the mock emergency on campus.
The recorded telephone warning system was recently installed and soon will be enhanced with text message warnings, which also can be sent to students parents and people living off campus, Dunn said.
“The text messaging is really a good idea, especially in the case of violence,” said student Dathan Shelton, a senior from Benton.
Sirens will be mounted on 50-foot poles at four campus locations, said Jeff Steen, campus environmental coordinator. Siren blasts will reach between 78 and 80 decibels, loud enough for students listening to iPods to hear, Steen said. Verbal warnings also can be transmitted.
He said other campuses, including Western Kentucky University, have similar siren systems.
Wet weather delayed installation of the outdoor warning system. It cost about $120,000, the major expense in the upgrades, Dunn said. It should be in operation in about four weeks.
Students also can log onto a new Web site that details emergency procedures by visiting www.murraystate.edu and clicking on the button that says “Emergency Information.”
Other security enhancements include redesigned identification badges for students with larger photos and type. Badges must be presented for access to residential colleges, and campus staff will wear ID badges while working inside the residential colleges.
Emergency procedure guides will be distributed to all students. Campus officials are working with Murray city firefighters to familiarize them with university buildings.
Junior Trey Windhorst of Louisville said existing security measures are easy to spot, such as campus police patrolling the quadrangle and streets.
“There are little call boxes across campus to call Racer Patrol,” Windhorst said. “Students already feel safe on campus. This new technology will help them feel safer.”
Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com
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