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UPDATED: November 1, 2013 8:28:59 AM EDT
Alert Carolina Levels of Notification

Alert Carolina Levels of Notification

The University will inform the campus community using four different types of notifications – Emergency Warnings, Timely Warnings and Informational and Adverse Weather.

Emergency Warnings

The University will issue an Emergency Warning after confirming that a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to health or safety is occurring on campus. Because these situations call for people to act immediately, safety officials will sound the emergency sirens, which are intended to be heard by people who are outdoors.

When the sirens sound, people should: Go inside or take cover immediately; close windows and doors; and stay until further notice. The sirens also broadcast short pre-recorded voice messages. When the threat is over, the sirens will sound again with a different tone to announce an all-clear message. (Click here for an audio sample of the emergency tone. Click here to hear "all clear" tone.)

Situations in which the sirens would sound include:

  • An armed and dangerous person on or near campus;
  • A major chemical spill or hazard;
  • A tornado warning for Chapel Hill and Carrboro issued by the National Weather Service; or
  • A different emergency, as determined by the Department of Public Safety.

When the sirens sound - including during a test - the University also sends a text message to the cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. (To register, click the bar above "Register Your Cell Phone.")

In addition, the University communicates by updating alertcarolina.unc.edu and the UNC homepage, which triggers updates on official UNC Twitter and Facebook accounts, including those for the Office of New Student and Parent Programs and the Department of Public Safety.

Other means of communication are campus-wide email, the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line (843-1234) for recorded information, the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus cable television channels, and news releases for campus and local media.

Timely Warnings

The University will issue a Timely Warning to notify the campus community of any Clery Act crime as soon as the information is available so people can protect themselves and/or their property from similar crimes. This type of warning is intended to tell people to be cautious, not to take immediate action, so the sirens will not sound.

A Timely Warning will be issued only under the following conditions as determined by the Department of Public Safety:

  • There is a continuing danger to the campus community and
  • Issuing the timely warning will not compromise law enforcement efforts to address the crime.

Clery Act crimes include the following:

  • Criminal homicide, including murder and manslaughter (negligent and non-negligent);
  • Sex offenses (forcible and non-forcible);
  • Robbery;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • Burglary;
  • Motor vehicle theft;
  • Arson; and
  • Hate crimes (including any of the above offenses, as well as any incidents of larceny/theft, simple assault, intimidation or destruction/damage/vandalism of property that were motivated by bias).

If the Department of Public Safety believes that issuing a timely warning would compromise efforts to address the crime, the notification may be delayed until the potentially compromising situation has been addressed.

The University communicates by sending a text message to the cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. (To register, click the bar above "Register Your Cell Phone.")

In addition, the University communicates by updating alertcarolina.unc.edu and the UNC homepage, which triggers updates on official UNC Twitter and Facebook accounts, including those for the Office of New Student and Parent Programs and the Department of Public Safety.

Other means of communication are campus-wide email, the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line (843-1234) for recorded information, the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus cable television channels, and news releases for campus and local media.

Informational Messages

When a situation is not an emergency or pose an immediate threat to the campus community, but is of significant interest to campus, the University will issue an Informational Message.

The intent is to make the campus community aware by providing information about a situation. For example an alleged assault occurring on or within close proximity to the campus that does not appear to pose a continuing threat, based on currently available information, including information from local law enforcement agencies. In addition, a crime occurring off campus but due to its location may have an impact on student or employee security interests.  Notification may be elevated to timely warning notification if additional information becomes available to DPS that there is a continuing threat to the campus community. 

In these situations, the University communicates by updating the Alert Carolina website and by sending a campus-wide email message to inform the University community.

Adverse Weather

An Adverse Weather message is issued when a tornado watch or severe thunderstorm warning is issued by the National Weather Service for Orange County. The University may also send adverse weather notifications, including email, when other circumstances exist that do not represent an immediate threat to health or safety, yet action may enable people to protect themselves and/or their property. These situations may include approaching snow or ice storms or hurricanes.


Additional Information


Details about the Emergency Notification System and how people can expect to receive information are included in the University’s Emergency Notification Protocols. This document also includes information about communicating with parents and families through the Office of New Student and Parent Programs and by registering on the American Red Cross Safe and Well list.

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