In light of recent events, students may be wondering how safe Millesville’s campus is. One safety precaution the university has taken is placing blue boxes with the red button around campus for several years. These blue phones are emergency call boxes. If a student presses the button, he or she is connected with Lancaster County police radio or the 911 center. This activation lets the person on the other end know it is an emergency, and the appropriated action will be taken to respond to the activation.
Liana McMahon, a freshman at Millersville shared her experience of first knowing about the blue phones.
There is a not cut-and-dry measurement of where these phones are located on and around campus. They can be found near the shuttle pickup and drop-off areas. The phones are typically in areas that many people gather near.
A student of Millersville, Crystal Butler was asked if she felt the phones were located in convenient places.
Arthur White, Police Supervisor, explained that there was mandate for the location of the phones in the beginning, but now with the increased use of cell phones, it is not as needed. As a general guideline, they try to have one in the eyesight of someone anywhere on campus. White said they try to place them where it makes sense.
A survey of Millersville students collected data from 31 students. 27 students answered “yes” and four answered “no.”
The latest blue phone to be set up on campus is at the new soccer field. White will walk around campus to see if they are spread out appropriately. The university police department has a working group that reviews where they need to put the phones.
There are a few phones located near the Brookwood apartments and on University Dr., because the apartments owned by Student Lodging have an affiliation with the university.
Currently, there are not any blue phones around the construction sites of the new residence halls, though there has been preparation in the area for them to be installed. There are some located near the South Suites.
Deputy Chief Howard Bauman explained the frequency of use by saying there hasn’t been many serious activation in his two years with the university police. “A significant number of the times they are utilized are considered false reports and are called ‘unfounded,’” Bauman said.
White said there are about 4 to 5 times a year that the activations are serious and the police were needed to respond. At least once a month a phone is activated and the call is considered ‘unfounded.’
Out of the 31 students who took the online survey, 24 answered “yes” and seven answered “no.”
“We have less than a handful of emergency type calls on them,” Bauman said. The most frequently used phones are the ones in the areas of high traffic. More people increases the chances of an incident.
Some of these calls are from people who just walk by and push the button. Bauman recalls an instance over the summer when a child activated the phone for non-emergency assistance. Some push the button with the intent to get a ride home.
The university police are increasing the amount of prosecution for false reports. Those who activate the phones in a non-emergency face the possibility of being charged with false report to law enforcement, a misdemeanor. They can also be charged with disorderly conduct and be referred to judicial affairs.
To make sure the phones are working properly, every two weeks the police officers check them. They let the Lancaster County police radio know when they are activating them as a test. Someone has the job of servicing the malfunctioning phones within 24 hours.
Usually the problem is the volume of the call. When this happens, the button could still be activated but people on either end of the call might have a hard time hearing each other.
The blue phone near the Student Memorial Center was broken for a bit of time. The university police placed a sign on the phone alerting students of its condition. It was not repaired within 24 hours because it was a wiring issue. The phone needed trenching and rewiring. It is now functioning normally.
“I would also feel safer if the blue phones were fixed quickly instead of a bunch of them being out of order all the time,” said one student, who answered anonymously via the survey.
These phones are just the basic model and can be adapted. Cameras have been added to a few around campus. University police are considering installing PA systems on the phones to alert people of emergency situations. The phone boxes can even have solar panels installed on them.
Bauman said the blue phones should not be activated for those who want to be escorted by a policeman. This service is available to students who feel unsafe while walking around campus between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The university police decide on a case-by-case basis and make accommodations for those who need it outside the regular hours. Instead of activating the phone, the university police suggest calling them directly.
Millersville is not alone with this technology. Most universities have an emergency service established but Bauman believes Millersville is above average with technology and availability.
Morgan Woerner and Butler answered what they think about the general usefulness and locations of the blue phones.
“It provides a sense of security,” Bauman said.