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Sirens’ call goes unnoticed at UNM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Shrill, electronic sirens on Tuesday morning meant to trigger an emergency drill were widely ignored by students on the University of New Mexico’s campus.

Some pulled at their phones to read the text message alert also sent out with siren. But few on Smith Plaza heeded the message to find the nearest building and take shelter when a Journal reporter observed the campus on Tuesday morning.

Byron Piatt, UNM’s emergency manager, said this is the first time they have practiced the exercise, so the students’ response, or lack thereof, is expected. But Piatt wants to change that.

“We want them to follow the instructions,” Piatt said.

Piatt said he’ll work to improve participation by conducting additional drills and publicizing what to expect in advance, though there are no other campus-wide exercises planned for this semester. He added they may try to work with departments and classes to encourage participation.

And next time, Piatt said, the siren should ring for the entire three minutes of the exercise.

Ayomide Oloyede, 16, sat outside the Student Union Building, and though she heard the siren she was slow to respond because no one else seemed concerned.

Oloyede said she didn’t recall receiving notice about the alarm.

And students Annaka Westphal, 18, and Bradford Bodley, 18, sat on a concrete bench Monday afternoon outside of Zimmerman Library. They too heard the siren. And Westphal said she isn’t sure where she should have gone if she had responded to the alarm.

The university did try to prep students. Administrators announced the drill by news release last week. Text messages and emails warned of the siren, but that caused some students to brush it off as just a drill.

And some staff were positioned around campus trying to get students to participate in the drill.