New Danforth Campus sirens another form of emergency communication

Washington University installed warning sirens on the roofs of Brookings Hall and Seigle Hall Jan. 5. A third siren will be installed on a building in the South 40 this spring.

The sirens, part of WUSTL’s Emergency Notification System, broadcast both warning tones and voice messages and will be used to alert the campus to severe weather, hazardous-material spills, fires, violence on campus or other emergency situations. Once all three sirens are in place, emergency messages will be audible outdoors throughout the Danforth Campus.

A crew from Global Technical Systems Inc. installs an emergency siren on the roof of Brookings Hall Jan. 5. A siren also was installed on the roof of Seigle Hall. The sirens will be painted gray or sky-blue this spring to better blend in against the landscape.

“When alerting the community of a crisis, early notification is critical,” said Bruce Backus, assistant vice chancellor for environmental health and safety.

“The use of sirens, along with other means of emergency communication, will help to quickly inform the community of an emergency and help students, faculty, staff and visitors take appropriate action to keep themselves and their colleagues safe,” Backus said.

In addition to the sirens, the University’s Emergency Notification System also notifies the WUSTL community of emergencies via text messages, phone calls, e-mails, the emergency Web site ( and an emergency hotline (935-9000 locally or toll-free 888-234-2863).

WUSTL community members can sign up to receive text messages on their cells phones at

“The University is working hard not to rely on any one mode of communication in an emergency,” said Matthew Arthur, director of incident communications solutions. “The presence of sirens on the Danforth Campus adds to the University’s ability to get information to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.”

Other universities that use siren systems similar to WUSTL’s include Northwestern University, Cornell University, Ithaca College and the University of New Hampshire.

If an emergency occurs, a siren will sound, and a voice will briefly describe the nature of the emergency. Though the voice may provide instructions, the University community should review information about what to do in a particular situation before a crisis occurs. Instructions on how to react in different emergencies can be found at

The sirens will be tested the first Monday of the month at 11 a.m.

WUSTL is working to get alerts from the sirens broadcast indoors into the Danforth University Center and other Danforth Campus buildings through public-address systems and digital signage.

The University also will program the sirens to notify the North Campus Security office, West Campus Data Center, Tyson Research Center, Medical School Protective Services Dispatch Center and South Campus maintenance office in an emergency.

The School of Medicine is investigating the possibility of adding indoor and outdoor sirens as well.

For more information about the Emergency Notification System, contact Mark Bagby, University disaster coordinator, at