New emergency outdoor phones installed across campus
The relatively safe U of S campus just got even safer, with the installation of 10 outdoor emergency speaker-phones linked to Security Services.
Campus Security Director Bob Ferguson says within the past six-to-eight weeks, three of the phones have been placed around the Bowl and the other seven have been installed in Parking Lots Z, G, F, P, E, V and Y.
Ferguson says each of the 10 phones has a cement base, stainless steel casing, speaker-phone, emergency sign, blue strobe-light, and transmitting antenna.
“They’re 90-per-cent operational now, and we’re just fine-tuning how to get the best signal,” he says.
Ferguson says the emergency phones draw the little power they need from nearby light poles or parking lot plug-in lines, and they transmit their signal to one of two receivers in the Arts Tower and Agriculture Building. Those receivers then relay the phone signal into the main campus phone system and direct the call to Security Service’s ‘5555’ number, which Ferguson says is the campus equivalent of 911.
The Security Services Director says the new phone service was developed by the President’s Advisory Committee on Personal Safety. That body, with representatives from various staff groups, has in recent years arranged for more lighting in parts of campus and other measures to promote safety. Two years ago it had free call buttons added to all campus pay-phones letting people call Security Services (5555) or other U of S services.
Ferguson says the Committee applied for $50,000 in capital funding from reserve monies in the student and staff parking funds and the campus capital budget.
It was approved and arrangements were made to get the phone units from Critical Telecom, an Innovation Place company that has designed this type of emergency phone to withstand local weather conditions. Each unit costs $5,000.
Ferguson says Security Services hopes people don’t play pranks with the phones and hit the button and run away. His office will prosecute any mischief, but he wants anyone who feels they’re in an emergency to use the phones.
“We treat it as a 911 call, and we leave the definition of ‘emergency’ up to the individual. If you need help, call, and stay there,” Ferguson says. The light flashes and the line stays open, with Security able to hear what’s going on, until the ‘5555’ Security Services officer hangs up.
He says the 5555 line can handle eight calls at one time, and if all 10 emergency phones were used at once, eight calls would go through and the other two would be put on hold. The phone system can handle 50 of the emergency phone boxes, and Ferguson thinks phones will be added over the years, as campus grows.
“We actually have a very safe campus,” Ferguson says.
And, he adds, “We’re really happy with the new phones. Hopefully they’ll do what we want them to do, which is make people feel safer.”