U to install speakers to warn of attack or emergency

The ’07 Virginia Tech massacre set the speaker plan into motion.

U to install speakers to warn of attack or emergency

Jeff Hargarten

Pre-recorded voice messages will echo throughout University of Minnesota campuses in the case of emergency, once a new alert system is installed.

The Department of Emergency Management is installing speakers at 21 sites that will broadcast information to prevent panic   during crises, said Bob Janoski, interim director of the Department of Emergency Management.

The warning system, which will cover four of the five University campuses, is a âÄúcritical pieceâÄù of the UniversityâÄôs disaster preparedness, he said.

The Virginia Tech massacre, where 32 died when a shooter moved through multiple parts of campus, set the UniversityâÄôs speaker plan into motion, said Gary Hendrickson, the project leader.

The speaker installation project cost more than $690,000, with approximately $400,000 coming from the University and the rest from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant, Janoski said.

The Twin Cities campus will place 16 of the speakers at sites across all three areas of campus. Speakers will be installed at Frontier Hall, Territorial Hall, Peik Hall, the Recreation Center, around the Bierman Field House and at Coffman Union on the East Bank. West Bank spots include Andersen Library and Rarig Center, according to tentative placement plans.

Speakers will either be roof-mounted, like the newly completed installation on Green Hall on the St. Paul. campus, or mounted on poles, Janoski said.

Hendrickson said the locations may change if certain installations encounter difficulties, but said he didnâÄôt expect any problems.

University satellite campuses will also get speakers, Janoski said.

The Crookston and Morris campuses will each have a pair of installations, and one more is underway in Duluth, he said.

Since the UniversityâÄôs Rochester campus is leased from a downtown mall with its own warning system, no speakers will go there.

The project would be set up to allow everyone in the campus vicinity to clearly hear important alerts in the case of an emergency, Hendrickson said. The speakers will emit either warning sirens or prerecorded voice messages telling people whatâÄôs happening.

The UniversityâÄôs existing emergency resources include the TXT-U text messaging system and radios inside campus buildings.

The speaker project was a University initiative to âÄúâĦ make sure we have our bases covered,âÄù Hendrickson said.

Marla Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the University of North Carolina, said their 17 campuses had a similar system but after Virginia Tech, UNC put extra emphasis on improving it.

Light-rail construction and building renovations wonâÄôt affect the installations around the University, Janoski said, and the year-long project is scheduled to be done Oct. 31.