When it comes to campus safety, the blue emergency phones students pass in parking lots, bus stops and walkways aren’t obsolete yet.
Parking Services, which controls 38 phones, continues not only to maintain the phones at a cost of about $8,000 per year, but also plans to replace and upgrade some of the older models.
Larry Emling, the head of Parking Services, says he is not out to spend unnecessary money.
“We’re trying to spend the money wisely,” he said. “But at the same time, we don’t want to shortcut it just because they’re not getting used as much.”
Kent State police Lt. Bill Buckbee said specifics on how often the phones are used are not kept “readily accessible” and the police department does not track how often the phones are used for emergencies.
But Emling said his office is fielding fewer calls from the phones and more from cell phones.
He said some of the phones need heating coils added to prevent buttons from freezing during the winter. The department is also planning to move one of the existing phones by the Student Recreation and Wellness Center to a more “central location,” which Emling said saves money by using an already existing phone line.
Although he acknowledges the prevalence of cell phones, Emling disagrees with the notion that the blue phones aren’t useful anymore. He cited cases in which cell phones are not handy.
“You can dial our office if you lock your keys in your car, or you lock your phone in the car with the keys,” he said.
Sometimes robbers will take students’ cell phones, he said, and if students are unable to talk, simply pushing the emergency button will initiate a response from the police department.
“It gives you another alternative to find assistance quickly,” he said.
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Students can use the phones to call any five-digit university number or press the emergency button to connect with campus police. The five most helpful numbers, in Emling’s opinion, are listed on the phones, which call to Police Assistance, Parking Services, Residence Services, PARTA and Stadium Shuttles.
Emling said there is “the perception of having the phones visible,” which can always be a comfort for students and deterrent for criminals.
The first order for six campus phones was filed February 1990, he said. The original goal was to have a phone within “reasonable distance” all over campus, he said.
Parking Services has paid for the phone service and maintenance ever since, which Emling said amounts to $8,000 per year, and that all 38 phones are tested daily.
“Each time we go to replace one, we’ll make a determination whether it makes sense to keep it,” he said.
Jack Selesky, a freshman computer science major, said he doesn’t think he’ll ever need to use the phones.
“Most people have cell phones nowadays,” he said. “I would just use mine in an emergency.”
Although students’ usage of the phones is declining, Emling said Parking Services will keep them because they help students, if “only once or twice a year.”
“Is it worth it? I think so, and I think most people would agree,” he said.
You can contact Daniel Moore at [email protected]