UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Relax – the siren wail you'll hear on Wednesday is just a test
But know what to do when it's for real

– On Wednesday at noon, the campus will test its emergency sirens. When you hear the sirens wail, remember that this is only a test. The campus tests the system on the first Wednesday of each month as part of its comprehensive Alerting and Warning System.

Test the People Locator
UC Berkeley's monthly test of emergency sirens offer a great chance to test out the campus's newest emergency communications tool, the web-based People Locator. When you hear the sirens at noon on Wednesday, log into the system (peoplelocator.berkeley.edu) with your CalNet ID, post your current status, and look up the location of a friend or co-worker. (And don't worry, all this test data will be erased in the event of a real emergency.)

The People Locator enables Berkeley's 60,000 students, faculty and staff to post messages about their location and status that can be accessed by anyone, from anywhere with an Internet connection. The virtual bulletin board is hosted on servers at UCLA, and so should remain accessible in the event of a local emergency. Read more >

The sirens are a central aspect of the system, but not the only part. It also includes an emergency 800 telephone number with a recorded message, an emergency website that can operate independently of the campus’s computer network, and the People Locator, a web-based contact system to keep the campus community in touch with friends and family (see box at right).

The Alerting and Warning System is designed so that if local power and phone services are knocked out, the campus's Office of Public Affairs can activate the emergency hotline and websites remotely with a satellite phone connection.
The campus has been testing its sirens and communication services at noon on the first Wednesday of each month since January 2003. The tests are coordinated with other Alameda County cities and organizations.

When activated, the Alerting and Warning System will warn of an emergency or disaster and let the campus community and visitors know what has occurred and what action to take, said Tom Klatt, manager of UC Berkeley's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Using the system, the campus's Media Relations staff and NewsCenter web team will also communicate regularly updated news and information to those off campus, such as families of campus employees, as well as parents of students, half of whom live in Southern California. They may dial into the emergency telephone recording (800-705-9998), or access the emergency website and the web-based People Locator from anywhere in the world.

And, because the news media will play an important part during an emergency in informing the Bay Area and beyond about what is happening on campus, the website and 800 number will keep reporters regularly updated as well.

The Alerting and Warning System is a joint effort of the campus emergency preparedness office, the Office of Public Affairs, the Office of Information Services and Technology, and KALX, the campus radio station at 90.7 FM. The sirens and radio station can operate on emergency generators should campus power go out.

The campus will employ sirens and report information on its emergency communications services in the event of an emergency and for such hazards as chemical spills, flooding, fires, storms or power outages, said Klatt. The emergency communications websites also will provide information at times when the situation does not require the full siren alerting system.

Klatt emphasized that a three-step response should become automatic when members of the campus community hear the siren:

  1. Shelter: Go inside your office or residence, a nearby building or your car to avoid exposure to a hazard.
  2. Shut: Shut all doors and windows.
  3. Listen: Connect with one of three campus communication services, each of which is designed to work whether power is on or not. Call (800) 705-9998 for recorded information, such as disaster details, evacuation routes, aid locations and other special instructions. Alternatively, log onto either the campus home page, http://www.berkeley.edu, or the special emergency website, http://emergency.berkeley.edu. Or, tune in to the campus radio station, KALX (90.7 FM). Klatt advises having a battery-operated radio handy.

A final reminder: The 800 emergency phone number, the address of the emergency website, and other emergency information, are printed on the inside cover of the campus phone book.