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Understanding Vanderbilt emergency sirens and AlertVU

Mar. 19, 2013, 3:42 PM


Severe weather in Nashville March 18 prompted the sounding of Metropolitan Nashville’s sirens and also prompted some questions about Vanderbilt’s notification system.

On the morning of March 18, Vanderbilt University Police Department activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor area storms and their potential impact to Vanderbilt. There was no imminent threat to Vanderbilt—no tornado watches or warnings were issued for Vanderbilt—so neither the campus sirens nor AlertVU, the university’s emergency notification system, were activated.

Vanderbilt’s outdoor siren system and AlertVU are activated when there is an imminent threat to Vanderbilt, such as a tornado or an active shooter.

The National Weather Service did issue a tornado warning and a severe thunderstorm warning March 18 for parts of Davidson County outside of the Vanderbilt area, which triggered activation of the Metro sirens. The Metro sirens are activated when a tornado warning is issued anywhere in Davidson County—an area covering 526 square miles.

The Metro sirens can be heard from campus so it is important that members of the Vanderbilt community know the difference between the Metro sirens and the Vanderbilt sirens. Vanderbilt’s tornado siren changed March 16 to a steady tone. It was updated so that the siren tone differs from those in Metro Nashville, which recently changed to the “wail-type” siren.

How it works

Vanderbilt contracts with a commercial weather monitoring company to warn the university of severe weather approaching Vanderbilt’s main campus and Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. If a tornado is detected and is within 15 minutes of reaching either campus, the Vanderbilt Severe Weather Warning System is activated.

When the system is activated, the following things will happen:

  • Outdoor sirens on the main campus will sound;
  • AlertVU will notify all members of the Vanderbilt community of the threat via email and campus phone lines, if they have them. AlertVU also will send text messages and call other phone numbers that users have entered into the system. Employees can update their notification preferences in C2HR; students can do so using YES;
  • The alert will be posted on the Vanderbilt homepage and its primary Facebook and Twitter accounts; and
  • Overhead announcements in the Medical Center and Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks will notify of the severe weather threat.

Medical Center employees also will receive yellow and orange pre-alerts, alerts and cancellation notices with information specific to hospital operations.

In the event of an emergency, these are just some of the ways members of the Vanderbilt community will receive information. Other existing systems—such as the pager system used by the Medical Center, campus security notices, electronic message boards, other campus and Medical Center websites and social media—will continue to be used as part of the university and medical center’s overall emergency communications strategy.

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