This report describes the features and testing of the THOR Broadcasting System, a new long-range directed acoustic device that can provide effective warning and instructional messages across a campus in emergencies.
The system, called the THOR-8L is designed for intelligibility over long distances, and it can be heard over even loud levels of background noise, without overpowering listeners standing next to the device. The major difference in this device in comparison with warning sirens is that listeners can receive information about the emergency, as well as instructions on what to do. The device was tested by a research team in 2007. Volunteers were positioned in 21 locations around Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State University, whose Applied Research Laboratory developed THOR. The volunteers at the various locations confirmed THOR's voice-command intelligibility. The message delivered by THOR was the following: "This is a test of the THOR Broadcasting System. In the event of an actual weather emergency, safety instructions for Beaver Stadium and Bryce Jordan Center patrons would follow. I repeat, this is only a test." The end of the test message included an e-mail address and asked individuals elsewhere on campus who heard the message to report on where they were when they heard it and the characteristics of their surroundings. The assistant director of the campus police department told the organizers of the test that "The uniform quality of the voice at all distances was amazing." Even at the Bryce Jordan Center, where there was an echo, the clarity of the message was maintained. The research team continues to incorporate refinements into THOR. Commercialization is still a few years away, and the cost of the system has not yet been determined.
Date Published: February 1, 2009