Student workers are in control

Kelly Cothren

Center monitors buildings on campus, responds to emergency calls

Junior zoology major Katy Gee works in the Building Automation and Control Center offices from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday. The student-run control center watches over alarms around campus.

Credit: Jason Hall

After hours, on weekends and holidays, Kent State students take control of the Building Automation and Control Center.

The Control Center is a 24-hour emergency and monitoring system run by students.

“The (Building Automation and Control Center) students are responsible for the mechanical, utility and alarm systems throughout the campus,” said Michael McDonald, director of Campus Environment and Operations. “They also can turn on or off air conditioning and heat in any building as well.”

One responsibility of the Control Center is to dispatch emergency system calls. When an alarm goes off in any of the campus buildings, a computerized monitoring system notifies the student workers.

“The computer has a window that pops up saying, ‘Urgent! Urgent! Urgent!'” Energy Management supervisor Neil Sessions said. “The worker on duty then finds the procedure page specific to that emergency and follows the detailed steps listed.”

Along with emergencies, Control Center students take work requests and direct them to the appropriate Campus Environment and Operations department.

“A couple of different things can happen when a request comes in,” said student supervisor Maggie Mason, a senior human development and family studies major. “Our department can fix it right away if it is a priority or fix it later if it is not a priority. If we can’t fix it, we can call an outside source that can fix it.”

Members of the student staff are well trained to deal with any possible situation.

“Each student has to take four weeks of training and pass a test before they are allowed to monitor by themselves,” Sessions said. “I try to get students who can work here for a couple of years because the training is so intense. It is not practical to train a new group of students each year.”

If students do not know what to do in a situation there is always someone they can contact immediately for help, Mason said.

Mason has worked for the Control Center for two years. She says day shifts are more difficult than night shifts.

“During the day you are doing so many routine things that it gets boring,” Mason said. “At night, since it is not as busy, you can do more to entertain yourself – like playing on the Internet.”

Mason also said that more unusual calls come in at night, and they help keep it interesting.

“Most of the interesting calls are usually because of animals that get into the buildings,” Mason said. “At least once a week we get a call about a bat in Music and Speech. It must live in there, because it is always in the same part of the building, and the same custodian calls it in.”

The Control Center students also get their fair share of false alarms.

“Every time someone pushes the alarm button in an elevator, it automatically sends a call to us,” said Mason. “It seems like on move-in days someone is always constantly pushing it, and it gets so annoying. We also get some elevator false alarms on Thursday nights.”

Contact building and grounds reporter Kelly Cothren at [email protected].