Siren malfunction cause unknown

Stephanie Sansoucy

An emergency siren sounded on campus Sunday night at 9:34 p.m. and was muted 10 minutes later, said Hank Foreman, the associate vice chancellor for university communications and cultural affairs.

An App State-ALERT message was sent out at 9:53 p.m. explaining that the siren system had malfunctioned and that there was no emergency on campus, Foreman said.

The siren was initiated by an unknown source, Appalachian State Police Chief Gunther Doerr said. The mechanism that university police uses to signal the siren was in the off mode, and there was no reason on campus for it to be activated.

Doerr said the police station reacted to the siren by trying to cancel the alarm, but ended up having to shut off the power source to the siren. However, the alarm had to finish the signal before it shut off.

In the three years that the university has had the system, this is the first time a malfunction has occurred, Doerr said.

Appalachian’s fire alarm receiver lost power Sunday night and the professionals who work in telecommunications are currently working to investigate the cause and any possible link between the fire alarm’s lost power and the siren system malfunction, Foreman said.

“Our staff are also in close communication with Whelen [Engineering], manufacturer of our siren, to investigate the cause of the malfunction,” Foreman said.

While crews are working on the investigation of the malfunction, it is requested that anyone on campus should notify campus police if a fire or smoke alarm is heard.

Doerr said that according to the current protocol for university police, the siren would be activated in a “high risk scenario where there has actually been shots fired or there has been some explosion or some dangerous chemical leak that would endanger the lives of people and [those on campus] would need to react immediately.”

Doerr said that the police tried to get the information about the malfunction out to students as soon as possible.

“If it were to be an emergency where [the police] need to activate [the siren], protocol is that [students] are to seek safe shelter and then wait for the App State Alert text, voice [message] and email for information to determine where the danger is and what actions the university would be asking students to take,” Doerr said.

“From what feedback I received, a lot of the residence halls followed that protocol,” Doerr said.

Doerr said that information on how to respond to the campus warning siren is covered with students during their freshman orientation in a program called App Way.

“What we are discovering is that the retention of the information is not as good as it should be,” Doerr said.

Doerr said there is currently a discussion on how to address that.