OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU’s biggest classrooms get emergency phone system

09/14/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Anyone walking into the largest general-purpose classrooms on the Oregon State campus may notice a bright red addition this fall. Red emergency phones are being installed in more than 120 classrooms this summer, to make contacting campus police dispatch as easy as possible.

The new phone system is the result of a request by Oregon State faculty, who wanted a way to be able to contact campus police quickly in the case of an emergency. Issues like the attack in 2007 at Virginia Tech and shootings at other universities have heightened awareness across the nation about campus safety, and Oregon State is being proactive in developing a plan to protect staff and students.

There are already 14 blue emergency phones at different locations around the grounds of the Corvallis campus, as well as yellow emergency phones at the entrances of every residence hall. There are also phones installed in every elevator. Like those other phones, the new red phones are directly connected to dispatch, with no dialing necessary. But the new red phones also allow public safety officials to call a particular classroom, block of classrooms, or blocks of specific buildings when an emergency alert goes out.

In the era of cell phones, this may appear to be unnecessary, but that’s not the case, said OSU Public Safety Director Jack Rogers.

“Due to the various construction of buildings and the thickness of some walls on campus, some cell phone don’t receive cell signals,” Rogers said. “Also, many professors and instructors tell their students to turn their cell phones off during class.”

Brandon Wells, Network Services operations manager in charge of the project, said that whenever someone uses one of the emergency phones, the police dispatcher is able to tell which classroom they’re calling from. This can be crucial in an emergency, when the panicked caller may be unable to recall what floor they’re on, let alone recall their room number.

“They know exactly where to go,” Wells said.

Due to the cost of installation and maintenance of the phone system, phones have been placed in the classrooms on campus that have the greatest use and hold the most students. They will all be clearly labeled as emergency-only phones, and do not have any dial-out capacity.

“People have noticed them,” Wells said of the phones already installed. “Your eyes go right to them.”

The new red phones add another layer of security preparedness to Oregon State’s emergency preparedness plan. Another important part of the plan that’s been in place since 2008 is the OSU Campus Alert System. This system allows public safety officials to create emergency alerts that contain a recorded voice message, an email message, and a text message and send them to all employees and students. In crisis situations, the system will try all means of contacting each person in the database.

Oregon State students, staff and faculty are encouraged to visit the alert web portal to make sure their contact information is current, so that they can receive emergency information in a timely manner. The system is not used for any other purpose than emergency alerts. For help, contact the OSU Helpdesk at 541-737-3474 or osuhelpdesk@oregonstate.edu.