Jon Carey

Equinox Staff


The echo of a repeated siren sounded off Wednesday, Nov. 9 as part of a comprehensive safety and emergency plan developed by Keene State College, which tested both the siren warning system and the City Watch emergency notification system.

The tests were conducted at the same time as the first ever nationwide Emergency Alert System test. All broadcast and cable programming in the United States were interrupted with an emergency alert tone which was intended to make the audience aware of this testing.

KSC contracted with Avtex, Inc. to implicate the City Watch Emergency Notification System in the Keene State community. The system is designed to send emergency messages to enrolled campus members via text message, cellular telephone, and/or e-mail when circumstances dictate.

The Emergency Notification System (ENS) is used primarily when a situation exists that presents an imminent danger to the campus.

Director of Campus Safety, Amanda Warman, mentioned that different situations determine the use of the system.

“It really depends on the emergency, in that the siren installed on top of Spaulding Gymnasium will sound in the event of immediate action such as a tornado or an active shooter. Whereas the City Watch deals with messaging alerts through text messages, phone calls, or e-mails,” Warman said.

In the event of an actual emergency within the campus, Warman said if the threat is imminent students would be directed to go to the closest building, unless of course that is where the emergency is.

According to the policy establish by Keene State College, an “imminent danger” is one that threatens the immediate safety of the campus community, is not anticipated, and failure to provide such a warning may result in serious harm.

ENS messages will not be used unless the situation is determined to be imminent and requires immediate action.

Warman said the pre-programmed voice announced over the siren system on top of Spaulding Gym, is part of the Radio Frequency Operation (RFO) which projects throughout the entire campus.

The $8,000 to $9,000 Whelen System has been in effect at KSC since 2008 and the City Watch program since January of 2007.

“We usually run silent, pre-programmed tests, like the one on Wednesday, once every month just to check up on the system without any disturbances of the siren,” Warman said. “We run the actual ENS test with the siren once every year and rarely have to conduct City Watch updates because we use it so frequently.”

The ENS is tested annually and as part of a campus-wide drill.

The purpose of the drill is to ensure that the system is in good working order and that campus community members know what actions should be taken in case of emergency.

The City Watch desktop system program costs about $15,000 a year, figuring the cost of $2 per registrant to send out alerts via text messaging.

In order to receive messages through City Watch, members of the Keene State College community must enroll online and provide contact information indicating by what means they would like to be notified in case of emergency.

Students who have the City Watch updates said it’s a good way to keep self-awareness in case of emergencies that happen on campus. “I’ve had the City Watch updates for a couple years now and even if there’s no emergency, I still get updates about cancelled classes or any other helpful information for students,” KSC senior Courtney Gaier said.

According to Warman, Campus Safety updated its policy last year to allow students to receive messages regarding class cancellations.

“We have to update our system frequently because we have a lot of students who sign up to receive massages so we have to send out enrollment messages to each student,” Warman said. “We currently have about 1,600 registered students to receive alerts by Campus Safety.”

Enrollment within the ENS system must be done annually beginning July 1 of each year. Previous years’ lists will be archived electronically but will not be active and those who register will not receive notifications unless currently enrolled.

Students who were outside during the ENS drill said they weren’t quite aware of the procedure but knew it coordinated with the alarm system.

“At first my thought was a tornado warning because of the siren, which didn’t make sense because it was sunny and like 60 degrees out,” KSC junior James Trask said. “Once I went inside and saw the nationwide emergency testings it all made sense, I’m just glad we have a system in place if anything were to happen.”

To be removed from the City Watch emergency notification service, send an e-mail to: with the name and telephone number requesting to be deleted.

“Overall I think the test went exceptionally well. The system is designed to be heard outside so I think people got confused when they went inside and didn’t hear anything. The ENS system and siren was installed and designed to project throughout the entire outside area of the college,” Warman said.


Jon Carey can be contacted at


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