Williston to Test Emergency System

A new emergency alert system put in place last year will run through its final, and most critical test on June 17.

Last fall, Williston Northampton successfully tested the school’s ability to send emergency messages through text, email, and social media. The final test is to ensure messages can also be heard across campus in the event of an emergency.

Williston will broadcast a 20-second tone, followed by a verbal announcement that a test is underway. Both the tone and announcement are intended to be heard mainly by those on school grounds, but should also be audible to a greater or lesser degree by the surrounding community.

The messages will be broadcast from several high-powered speakers—two mounted on a pole at Galbraith Field, facing southeast and southwest, and three on the roof of the Reed Campus Center, facing into campus—that were installed last summer by Acoustic Technology, Inc., a Boston-based company.

As the broadcast is designed to make people aware of such emergencies as severe weather conditions, chemical spills, fires, or active violence, having the sound travel beyond campus is part of the point, said Director of Security Anne O’Connor.

She said the system was installed in an effort to ensure the safety of both the Williston community and those who live in the immediate area, and that she hopes people will see the system as a benefit to their safety.

“Hopefully people will only hear it once a year when we need to test it,” Ms. O’Connor said.

Easthampton Police Officer Al Schadel, who is the school resource officer for the department, applauded the system and noted that it reflected the strong, ongoing collaboration between the school and the local police. He noted that the city has its own emergency alert system, Code Red, which can send out emails and text messages, but not audible broadcasts.

“Any overlapping system is a good thing. Anything that alerts people to what’s going on is a benefit,” he said. “I’d rather have people get too many calls and too many emails than not enough.”

After this initial test is complete, the Security Department will conduct an annual test of the emergency notification system each the fall.

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