FORT KENT, Maine — More than a year ago, a student at Virginia Tech went on a rampage, killing 32 students and faculty members at the university in Blacksburg, Va.
Since then, colleges across the nation have taken steps to better notify and protect students and faculty during emergencies, and the University of Maine at Fort Kent is one of them.
Between 1 and 4 p.m. today, UMFK will test a new campus wide emergency warning siren system.
Terence Kelly, director of university relations and alumni affairs, said Monday that UMFK’s warning system has been installed to notify students, faculty, staff and campus neighbors about potential natural disasters and emergency situations.
The warning consists of three siren blasts that can be heard within a 1,500-foot radius of the UMFK campus, he said. Today’s test will be performed to ensure that the warning siren system functions as designed.
“This is a brand-new thing for us and we believe it is going to help safeguard everyone here on campus and also benefit the community,” he said. “The siren has been mounted on top of Cyr Hall. The students have been notified that the test will be taking place, and it will be a first for everyone — no one knows what this sounds like yet.”
Kelly pointed out that the system not only will be able to warn of potential danger on campus, it also will alert students to approaching hazards, such as severe weather.
“I think everyone has learned that you can never be too prepared,” Kelly said.
The siren is just the first piece of a new emergency notification system that is being implemented at the Fort Kent campus this fall.
Kelly said UMFK also has contracted with ConnectED, a service that allows campus administrators and emergency personnel to send time-based notifications within minutes of an emergency declaration.
Using the system, the college can quickly inform students, faculty, staff and parents about emergencies at multiple contact points including cell phones, home phones and e-mail.
The action taken by UMFK comes on the heels of the passage of The Virginia Tech Vic-tims Act, an amended form of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The act standardizes the emergency and evacuation response of colleges and universities during campus crises.
Under the law, universities must disclose and test their emergency and evacuation plans annually. The legislation also requires schools to notify students and faculty members immediately upon confirmation of a crisis by campus security personnel.