Emergency phones alert police to possible dangers on UNA campus

A police pole stands beside Willingham Hall. Officials say poles are still used mainly for reporting issues with stolen items in vehicles or stolen vehicles.

There are approximately 55 emergency phones on campus for students to use if they need any kind of help, said Deputy Chief of Police Mark Parker.

“Each one of those blue poles has an identifiable number, and when you push the button on the pole, it rings into our dispatch,” Parker said. “And our dispatch is able to tell through that number which one of the poles is being used.”

He said once someone presses the button, an officer will come by to check on it, whether someone actually speaks into it or not.

The emergency phones are not limited to the blue police poles. There are also emergency phones in residence halls, the parking deck and in campus elevators, said Chief of Police Kevin Gillilan via email.

The emergency phones are being used less and less because of new technology, Parker said.

“With everybody now having a cellphone, using the campus phones are not as prevalent as they were when they were first put in,” he said

However, students still use the phones to tell police about their concerns.

“We get several calls a week (from the phones),” he said. “The vast majority of those is somebody pushing it and running off. We do occasionally get calls like if a car has been broken into or somebody has somebody else that they are concerned about.”

Students who call from the parking deck mostly call to report suspicious activity in the deck, Parker said.

“We get calls from people when they see someone else in the deck that they are not comfortable with — like some guy is hiding behind cars, or he’s looking into cars,” he said. “So they would use the phones to contact us about things like that.”

He said the police department checks the emergency phones for maintenance regularly.

The university pays for the cost of the phone lines and maintenance fees associated with keeping the phones in working condition, Parker said.

“We’re diligent with making sure they are kept up-to-date,” he said. “We check them on a regular basis. If they’re not working, we then turn them in to the proper maintenance department.”

Freshman Kobee Vance said he has an issue with the campus phones.

“It seems like a lot of them are out of order, and that causes them to be very ineffective,” Vance said.

“And we may now have technology on smartphones which might one day completely replace them.”

Freshman Karina Cisneros said she thinks the phones are for a good purpose.

“I think having them is a really good idea,” she said. “I would definitely use them if I ever had a need to.”

Parker said he thinks having the phones available for use is very beneficial for students.

“We appreciate the use of our emergency phones,” he said. “We feel like it makes a safer campus and we feel that just knowing they’re there will make students feel better.”