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University to remove public safety phones

By Clifton B. Parker on June 17, 2011 in University

The campus will remove all of its 107 public safety phones and replace only 18 of them with keypad service phones this summer now that their emergency purpose has been largely overtaken by the wide use of cell phones and the introduction of 9-1-1 wireless service on campus.

Facilities Management is scheduled to begin the project with the removal of 22 phones from the South Entry area of campus next week, and Communication Resources plans to have all the phones removed by the end of August.

Each phone will remain operational until just hours before it is physically removed, said David Hamaoka, the associate development engineer who is overseeing the project for Communication Resources.

The public safety phones to be removed are either mounted on walls or on poles; some of them have strobe lights that operate when the phone has been used. The direct access they provide to public safety dispatch—when the user pushes a single button or lifts the receiver—has been used for reasons other than emergency calls.

The phones scheduled for removal during the first week include 16 wall-mounted phones in the South Entry Parking Structure, two phones on tall poles near the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science; and one of each type from Parking Lots 1 and 2.

A total of 14 public safety phones in student residential areas and four in parking structures will be replaced with service phones with keypads that can be used to dial campus phone numbers, including 9-1-1 to reach public safety dispatch.

Emergency policy team made decision

The executive policy team of the Emergency Operations Center—which includes the positions of the chancellor, chief of the UC Davis Police Department and emergency manager—decided two years ago to discontinue the support of the phones as a public safety measure.

In December, the team accepted its task force's recommendation to remove all the phones since they are not being used for their intended purpose. The team also decided to wait to begin the removal until the end of the academic year so the work would be less disruptive to the campus.

In a memo to the executive policy team, Jill Parker, associate vice chancellor for safety services, said the phones were originally intended to provide immediate emergency assistance to remote or isolated locations on campus. "However, new generations of students, cellular technology and wireless 9-1-1 have made most land-line emergency phones all but obsolete," she wrote.

Parker added that the phones created a false sense of security because their locations were not guided by a campuswide plan and not all areas of the campus were covered.

The campus introduced wireless 9-1-1 service in 2008. Wireless 9-1-1 routes calls according to the cell site receiving and transmitting the signal, and local cell site antennas are directed toward the campus dispatch center.

A 2009 report by the task force found the phones are used infrequently and for purposes other than seeking emergency help. For example, of 324 calls made to dispatch from these phones in an 18-month period in 2006-07, none was considered life threatening. The calls included 318 seeking help with flat tires or safety escorts or were hang-ups; two each for medical aid and mental health crises; and one each for a minor vehicle accident and a crime report.

Chief Annette Spicuzza of the UC Davis Police Department said the use of the phones for anything but emergencies diverts resources from the UC Davis public safety dispatch and patrol officers. She said dispatch must send patrol officers to the phones to check on hang-ups or prank calls.

Valerie Lucus-McEwen, emergency and continuity manager for the campus, said other universities and colleges also are discontinuing use of emergency phones.

Removing all the phones, including repair to the areas where they were, will cost about $70,000. The phones cost a total of about $36,000 to maintain annually.

Campus units will have the option to pay for the installation and upkeep of service phones with keypads.
 

Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, cparker@ucdavis.edu

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