siren on university building

An outdoor warning system was installed on The University of Texas at Austin main campus in February, 2007. The system uses siren sounds to alert the campus community to take shelter in the event of an emergency, and the university plans to test the system once a month. The university is dedicated to ensuring everyone knows what to do when they hear the sirens, so we have provided an article about the siren system and the below answers to frequently asked siren questions.

What do the sirens sound like?

Listen to a simulation of the siren sound:

Audio file


When are the sirens tested?

The system tests take place at around 11:50 a.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. The tests last one minute, and you do not need to take any action during the test. If a severe weather warning is issued for the area on a scheduled test day, the test will be cancelled for that month.

What should I do during a system test?

You should continue your regular activities during a system test. You do not need to take any special actions during a test.

How can I tell the difference between a monthly test and an emergency?

Monthly tests will begin with the announcement, “This is a test.” If you hear the sirens, and do not hear, “This is a test,” this means there is an emergency.

A system test will only take place around 11:50 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month, and will never last longer than a minute. In the event of an emergency the sirens will sound until the emergency is over, at which point you will hear an “all clear” announcement.

What should I do when I hear the sirens?

When you hear the sirens you should seek shelter immediately. Enter the nearest building and move into interior corridors away from windows. Close all doors to rooms with windows, and move to the lowest level of the building. Remain inside until the sirens stop and you hear the “all clear” notification.

If you hear a siren test, do not take any action.

What types of emergencies do the sirens indicate?

The sirens indicate emergencies that make it unsafe to be outdoors and require you to seek immediate shelter. The most likely cause of these unsafe outdoor conditions is severe weather, but other causes may include the unlikely occurrences of an environmental hazard or an armed individual on campus.

The sirens are only used for emergencies that impact or present a danger to the main campus. For example, the sirens will not be sounded for a tornado watch in Travis County, but they will be sounded if there is a tornado on the ground that has the main campus in its forecast path.

Where are the sirens located?

Siren speakers are located on top of four buildings of The University of Texas at Austin main campus. There are siren arrays on the roofs of the Beauford H. Jester Center, Jesse H. Jones Hall, Jesse H. Jones Communications Center B, and Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Building. There are two additional sirens at the Wildflower Center and three sirens at the Pickle Research Campus as well.

Where can I hear the sirens?

The sirens are loudest within the outer limits of the main campus, or within six-tenths of a mile from the point of a siren. They are audible on both the west and east sides of I-35, and are designed to be heard outdoors. You may not be able to hear the sirens if you are indoors or are listening to music, mowing grass, or using a hairdryer.