BGSU might pull plug on emergency phones PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor   
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 10:41
Students are seen inside a bus stop near a blue emergency light on the Bowling Green State University main campus February 4, 2013 in Bowling Green, Ohio. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
For years, the 50 blue light emergency phones have beamed like beacons across the Bowling Green State University campus. But it appears the big blue bulbs may be obsolete, since cell phones are standard accessories for college students.
"They were real popular in the 70s, 80s and 90s," said BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll. "Prior to cell phones, there was really no other way to get a hold of the police."
But times have changed. Last year between May and November, the blue emergency phones rang into the campus police between 600 and 700 times.
"Only three were for police service, and none of them were for emergencies," Moll said.
So Moll is studying the possibility of getting rid of the blue emergency phones.
The phones are located in parking lots and along sidewalks. They have dedicated landlines that automatically call the 911 dispatch.
Some of the false alarms came from pranks and drunken students who call then run, the chief said. "As you can imagine, that happens frequently."
And many of the calls are caused by lightening storms, which sometimes cause the phones to automatically dial into the 911 system.
But officers must respond to false alarms, just in case there is a true emergency, Moll said.
"Even the pranks, we have to send an officer out."
Though the police department will charge a fine against callers abusing the emergency phones, the callers are usually long gone by time officers arrive.
Not only is it a waste of time for officers to respond to the prank calls, but the university also has to test the phones monthly, in case they were needed for an actual emergency, Moll said.
Even when students use the phones to intentionally call for police help, they tend to ignore the "emergency" label on the blue light phones. The three police calls recorded by campus dispatchers last year were from students needing directions, a jump start to their car, and help after they were locked out of a building.
Since students rely on their cell phones for emergency calls, Moll said some aren't even aware of the blue light phones.
If you ask students, a lot of them don't know what they are for," she said.
Moll, however, isn't ready to pull the plug on the blue phones yet. She would like to gather data on the phone usage for a couple years before taking any action.
If the numbers over the next couple years are similar to last year, Moll said the university may want to reconsider the money it is spending on the labor and cost of maintaining the landlines to the 50 phones.
The chief is aware that while students may not view the blue phones as their link to emergency services, their parents are comforted by seeing the blue beacons scattered across campus.
"It makes them feel very safe to see blue lights everywhere," she said of parents. "It's probably going to take another generation" before many campuses get rid of the emergency phones.

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