RA wants more emergency telephone poles, administration says use is rare

Rachel Christian

Sara Burge said she and other resident assistants (RA’s) don’t feel safe in the campus apartments.

The senior resident assistant for O’Daniel South said the parking lots are poorly lit and the blue emergency telephone poles are few and far between, so she is trying to change that.

Burge approached the Student Government Association (SGA) Sept. 11 to ask for support in her attempt to get administration to fund more emergency telephones around the campus apartments.

In light of recent abductions in the Tri-State area, the RA’s felt the campus could use some additional security measures, Burge said.

She said during her freshman orientation, the incoming class was told they should be able to see the next emergency telephone poles from the one they are currently standing at, which isn’t the case at the apartments.

There are currently four emergency telephone poles scattered throughout the campus apartments.

“We’re not trying to scare anybody,” Burge said during the meeting. “We just want all of the RA’s and residents to feel safe.”

As a part of that effort, Burge said the O’Daniel South RA’s have ordered 500 whistles, which they plan to distribute to residents along with information about the Office of Public Safety.

Burge said she wasn’t asking SGA to help fund the installation of new emergency telephone poles, but instead to support her request when it is reviewed by administration. She said she has not price checked.

Aaron Gottman, a SGA member and Student Housing Association (SHA) president, told Burge she also has the support of SHA.

“It is scary to think there are no [emergency telephone poles] near sorority apartments or places where there are people traveling late at night,” Gottman said. “We owe it to the students to make sure they have a comfortable living environment.”

There are 46 outdoor emergency telephones located around campus and housing, and 25 indoor emergency telephones, said Stephen Woodall, Public Safety director. They were installed for students who need assistance or are in distress. 

Woodall, who has been the Public Safety director for seven years, said the emergency telephones are rarely used.

“The only times the staff and I can recall is the rare occasion of someone needing directions or the occasional prank call,” Woodall said.

He said no one in Public Safety could recall the emergency telephones being used for an actual emergency.

Technology may be making the telephones obsolete, Woodall said.

“I think the prevalent use of cell phones have probably diminished the use of emergency phones,” Woodall said.

To operate the phone, students push a button, which activates the blue strobe light on the top of the pole. Once the button is pushed, the phone rings into Public Safety, which is alerted to the location of the activated phone. From there, the dispatcher asks what assistance is needed and sends an officer out.

The outdoor telephones are checked approximately every two to three weeks by third shift officers, Woodall said.

Mark Rozewski, vice president for finance and administration, is the person Burge will most likely have to go through to get approval for more emergency telephones.

“The utilization of these phones has been virtually non-exsistant for many, many years,” Rozewski said.

He said he couldn’t remember a single incident in the past five years when the phones were used to report an emergency.

Not all campus apartment residents think additional emergency telephones are necessary.

Benjamin Carney, a junior respiratory therapy major, lives in O’Daniel South. He said he’s never used one of the emergency telephones and said he hasn’t seen anyone else use one either.

“I think they’re a good idea, but the apartments are generally a pretty safe environment,” Carney said. “I don’t think we need more.”