Faulty blue light phone poses campus safety concerns


Patrick Koster/ The Record

Blue light phone number five was out of order Tuesday.

Patrick Koster, News Editor

After four major campus crimes last semester, SUNY Buffalo State is looking to start the semester off on the right foot.

But there may have already been a misstep .

On Jan. 27, WBNY General Manager Nick Lippa posted a photo to Facebook of a blue light emergency phone next to the Donald Savage Theater Building with “Out of Order” signs taped over it.

Several people responded to the post, one saying the blue light phone has “been like that for months.”

“Well that surprises me,” Vice President of Student Affairs Hal Payne said. “We, at the beginning of the year going back to September 15, had asked our friends in campus services, through Tom Killian who does all of our phones, to survey and test all of our blue light phones so that we would have all of our blue light phones working.”

Payne said out of the 44 blue light phones on campus, there was a report of one not working back in September near Grant and Letchworth streets. He said a spare phone was installed in its place, and all phones should be in service.

University Police Chief Peter Carey said UPD responded to a phone call and checked phone number seven (in front of the Savage Building, near Cleveland Hall) on Jan. 27, but nobody was there when they arrived on the scene. He said phone number five (in between Bacon Hall and the Savage Building) has the “Out of Order” signs, and that Campus Services was notified.

There are three parts to a blue light phone, Carey said. The power source is done by the campus, the bulb and lighting by Campus Services, and the phone line by Verizon. UPD is responsible for routine checks of all 44 blue light phones.

“We do an intensive check once a month where somebody physically goes to the phone, inspects it visually, actually hits the button, dials the number, and makes sure that the communication between the person and the desk officer is working,” Carey said. “And so, we report anything in that great detail once a month, and anything that we notice or that’s reported to us is during other times directly reported to maintenance for repair.”

Terry Harding, director of Campus Services, further explained:

“Campus Services is responsible for providing electric power to the phones and light fixtures,” Harding said. “Computing and Technology Services is responsible for ensuring that phone service is operational, including telephone line and call device maintenance.”

The out-of-service phone raised some concerns with Lippa.

“I just want the campus to take care of the students,” Lippa said. “[We] had a rough last semester safety-wise.”

Harding said the “outage has been diagnosed as a mechanical issue with the phone device itself, which is in the process of being replaced.”

He said typical phone repairs take 1-2 business days from the reported outage, but “relatively rare extenuating circumstances, such as communication line failures, can occasionally extend the outage time,” anyone noticing an outage or defect with lighting or the blue light phones is asked to call Campus Services (878-6111) immediately.

While the broken phone may have raised some questions, there haven’t been any major crimes so far.

“No major crimes have been reported taking place on campus,” Carey said. “So, it’s been quiet so far at the beginning of the semester.”

Buffalo State is putting in place new initiatives to focus on student safety this semester.

“We’ve had a lot of our University Police on overtime during the fall semester to make sure that there were enough people covering the campus to be aware of these kind of problems,” Payne said. “It’s something that we’ve been paying very close attention to during the fall semester, and now again that students are back on campus during the spring.”

Payne also mentioned that President Katherine Conway-Turner has charged the Campus Safety Forum with creating a sub-committee to look at issues and marketing of safety information, meet with UPD, and work with students to raise safety awareness. There haven’t been any updates from the sub-committee, but a report is expected to come out some time this semester.

UPD participated in the new student orientation for this semester, worked with the Campus Safety Forum, and is working with the Community Policing Advisory Committee. UPD hired a new student intern to handle social media communication as well.

Talks of the shuttle app from last semester have come to fruition. SmartTraxx, is now available for students to download free on Android and iPhone.

“We got the equipment installed, the maps created, and we were testing it last week,” Carey said. “The information is on our website and I’m working with college relations again to push that out to the entire campus community.”

Harding said a new lighting survey this spring will help assess current exterior lighting and identify where new lights may be needed.

“Campus Services is working closely with the College’s Safety Forum Committee, composed of a broad spectrum of college stakeholders, who are making progress with a number of initiatives, including increasing safety staff, video surveillance, parking improvements, building access restrictions, self-defense training and other key safety measures,” Harding said.

Payne said Buffalo State has increased their Residence Life staff.

“I think we will continue the process that started in the fall of beefing up patrols by University Police, beefing up overtime by University Police, continuing to survey things like the efficacy of the blue light system, the efficacy of our lighting,” Payne said. “We will be continuing those strategies while, at the same time, we look for best practices from other institutions.”

Carey said UPD will be advertising two presentations, an updated active shooter response presentation, and a conflict communication presentation, to resolve conflict without resorting to violence for students, faculty, and staff. He said in-service active shooter training for officers starts this month.

UPD’s Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) classes are also being held this semester on Feb. 3 and 10, March 2 and 9, and on April 6 and 13 in Buckham Hall D203 from 7 to 10 p.m. Those interested can register online at police.buffalostate.edu/educational-programs.

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