A push of button brings emergency help

6/3/2008 | By: Jane Tors  |

The University’s network of emergency “blue light” phones is being significantly expanded with the addition of 25 tower-style phones being installed across the main Reno campus. Each phone allows quick access to “911” emergency assistance with the push of a button.

“The blue lights will have a very positive impact on the actual safety and perceived safety that every member of the campus community – student, faculty and staff alike – has at the University,” said Michael Cabrera, Associated Students of the University of Nevada vice president and past chairman of the Campus Community committee.

The new phones enhance an existing network of 72 blue light phones in the University’s parking garages and a blue light tower phone in the Redfield Campus parking lot.

“Students really appreciate having (the phone) out there,” said Jodi Herzik, director of the Redfield Campus, located about 15 miles south of downtown Reno. “It’s comforting to them.”

The new phones are a tangible and visible safety resource, and substantially contribute to a goal set by University Police Chief Adam Garcia.

“Anywhere you stand on campus, you will be in sight of a blue light phone,” he said. “We are not at 100 percent, but this is where we are going. These additional phones put us much closer to the goal.”

All of the phones have a button that, when pushed, places an immediate call to the regional 911 dispatch center. Additionally, at the request of the ASUN Senate, the new tower-style phones on campus include a second button that places a call to the ASUN Campus Escort Service. This allows a convenient way to schedule a safe ride during the services’ hours of operation. The Escort Service does not operate over the summer, but will resume walking and driving escort services with the start of the fall semester in August.

All area law enforcement agencies, including University Police Services, participate in the regional 911 system. Calls placed to regional 911 are dispatched for response by the nearest officer, which means a University police officer would respond when the call is placed from campus.

When the emergency button is pushed, the blue light flashes to alert others in the area that something is happening, and potentially deters or stops criminal activity.

If you see a blue light flashing, Garcia advises that you assess the situation and use common sense in determining how or if to respond. In many instances, it may be best to not become involved in the situation, and instead place an additional call to 911. Many University students, faculty and staff carry a safety whistle. If you see someone in trouble and feel it is best not to approach the scene, you might blow your whistle to alert others. More than 4,000 free whistles were distributed this past semester.

“Being a good neighbor is an important concept,” said Garcia. “Police services are available to protect and provide a sense of security, but we need people to help us. Together we can create a community and a culture of safety, where people watch out for one another.”

The phones are part of an overall campus safety program, which includes 24/7 Police Services and other safety training. Each semester ASUN’s Campus Community committee conducts a safety walk with students and administrators to evaluate how and where safety improvements should be made.

“In all honesty, the safety walks which the committee and I conducted last year found the campus to be generally very safe and well lit at night, except for in a few areas where recommendations were made to have additional lights installed,” said Cabrera. “No one on campus should feel afraid to be at the University at any time of day.”

Several of the blue light tower phones are already operational. Others are installed but remain covered until the phone-line installation to those phones is complete. It is anticipated that 22 of the tower-style phones will be in place and operational over the summer. Three more will be installed as part of other construction projects. There is improved signage in the parking garages to better identify the location and purpose of blue phones in those locations.
The cost of the 25 tower-style phones is about $125,000. Cabrera notes the project continued to move forward despite mandated, statewide budget cuts, which were effective Jan. 1, 2008.

“By the time the project got rolling, the budget cuts had happened, but the blue light system project was not halted,” said Cabrera. “I think the fact the project moved on when other budgets were being slashed shows a lot of dedication to student safety on the part of our police department and ASUN.”

“This is something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Garcia. “President Glick was instrumental in obtaining funding for this. He stepped forward and did the right thing.”


For more news on the University of Nevada, Reno, follow @unevadareno on Twitter.

Get Nevada Today in your Inbox!