ORONO (AP) – With campus disturbances a growing concern, the long-silenced sound of the steam-plant whistle at the University of Maine is being heard across campus again.

The first toot in more than a decade sounded at midday Saturday. The initial blast was a little weak and sent a few flakes of black soot from the whistle’s pipe. But the next few blasts, sounding like a train whistle, were loud enough to be heard across the Orono campus, UMaine police said.

The whistle from the 11th-oldest building on campus is being brought back into service as the university reviews its procedures for emergencies.

The whistle, which is only about as big as a 2-liter soda bottle, used to be used as part of the alarm system for the fire department, and it was tested frequently in the 1960s when nuclear attacks were a concern.

Now, with school attacks such as the recent shootings at Virginia Tech and a subsequent bomb threat at UMaine, it’s seen as a signal to refer people on campus to other communication devices, such as e-mail, the school’s Web site or their cell phones.

“Now that we know it works, we’ll figure out how we want to use it,” said university Dean of Students Robert Dana, who observed Saturday’s test.


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