Western is prepared to sound the alarm – literally.
With an average of 70 tornadoes touching down in populated regions of Canada each year, a new preparedness tool to ensure the safety of students, staff, faculty and members of the surrounding campus community will give folks a heads up when needed.
The city-first emergency omni-directional weather siren – installed on the roof of Alumni Hall – will signal the earliest possible warning in case an imminent weather emergency is nearing the London region.
With a bustling campus of more than 40,000 students, staff and faculty – and following the massive tornado that hit Goderich just a year ago – Campus Community Police Service director Elgin Austen said being prepared, as with other emergency scenarios, is the right thing to do.
“London is in the range of high winds, electrical storms and tornadoes coming in from the U.S., especially in the spring time,” Austen said. “To be able to warn the thousands of people we have here on a daily basis is very important to us, as well as warning the local community.”
Campus police will determine the use of the siren by monitoring changing weather conditions through radar and weather radios, as well as alerts sent directly from Environment Canada. False alarms are not possible since a specific code must be entered for the siren to be activated.
Two full sounding tests were conducted earlier this week.
The system includes a feature for silent test capabilities, which will occur monthly to ensure the proper operation of the system. Actual sound tests will take place between two and four times a year, with the community given advanced notice of testing.
While the City of London does not currently have such a siren, other universities (Queen’s and McMaster) have similar systems. Should it become a future initiative for the city, Western has agreed to help.
This assistance is something that doesn’t surprise London Police Chief Brad Duncan.
“We’ve had a long relationship with the campus police and their administration,” Duncan said. “It is about community partnerships. So when we talk about emergency management, Western is a big player in that. They have a large campus and clearly early warning sirens would compliment what we do as a community. It’s about community collaboration.”
Austen added this latest endeavour is yet another example of Western being ready for something it hopes never has to be implemented.
“Western is known as a leader for safe campus communities,” he said. “Consequently, this is another component of that leadership whereby we also wish to not only help those who are on campus, but those in the local community.”