Western Alert test set for May 9
Western Washington University plans to test its emergency notification system known as Western Alert on Wednesday, May 9.
At 9:45 a.m. on May 9, Western will sound the “Big Ole” steam whistle for several minutes and a test message will be sent out to students, faculty, and staff via campus e-mail and cell phone text messaging. Test messages will also be posted on the University’s homepage at www.wwu.edu and the emergency information website at emergency.wwu.edu. The steam whistle is a signal on campus to immediately look for emergency information through the above sources.
Western also will test again its newest Western Alert emergency communications element, a building enunciation system. The university has installed building enunciation – which can send emergency voice messages to the campus through fire alarm speakers – within fire systems in all academic and administrative buildings, some residence halls, the Wade King Student Recreation Center and the Viking Union.
On May 9, a test voice message will be repeated several times in buildings as well as some outside speakers at the university tennis courts, the south campus oval at the Communications Facility and at the Old Main lawn. Amber fire alarm strobes also will flash in the main corridors of academic buildings and bathrooms. No action is required on behalf of the campus community.
A critical element of Western Alert, a text message is one of the most reliable ways to quickly provide emergency information. Even if users do not regularly text on their cell phones, most phones are capable of receiving text information. Western students, faculty and staff who have not yet registered to receive Western Alerts via text message are asked to update their personal information via the Web4U application. Employees may also call the Human Resources Department at 650-3774 for assistance in signing up.
To date, 92 percent of WWU students, 59 percent of staff and 51 percent of faculty members have provided their cell phone numbers to Web4U to receive emergency text messages.
The steam whistle, affectionately known in Whatcom County as “Big Ole,” was cast from aluminum-bronze by the Bellingham Bay Iron Works in 1899. The 2,000-pound, five-foot whistle operated at the local lumber mill on the waterfront at the foot of Cornwall Avenue until 1942 when that mill closed. In May 2002 the whistle was recovered from the Bloedel, Stewart-Welch’s Division at Port Alberni, B.C. which operated it until 1997. The steam whistle was installed at the Encogen NW Cogeneration Plant at Cornwall Avenue, where it was operational and blown on several special occasions, such as the Fourth of July. Several years ago, Western worked in cooperation with the Whatcom Museum to relocate the steam whistle to the University’s Steam Plant.