Cal State Fullerton has 196 blue emergency phones scattered across the campus.
University Police Department Capt. John Brockie said the blue phones can be used for any emergencies.
“In 2018, we received 1,358 calls,” said Brockie. “A lot of them are for escorts, which is fine, not everything is an emergency that we get contacted for.”
Brockie said that the average response time to these calls is about three and a half minutes.
“They have a speaker and a microphone. When you push the button to initiate it, you just talk towards the pole and the microphone picks it up and you can hear the dispatcher and also the blue light flashes. It comes into our dispatcher as a 911 call,” said Brockie.
Calls are split into three priorities; priority one calls are crimes or fights in progress and priority three calls are less urgent matters, like police escorts..
“If someone called for an escort and they said, ‘someone’s following me, I’m concerned for my safety,’ then we would elevate that,” said Brockie.
Most of the time, the blue phones are not used for emergency situations at all. For example, students will frequently use blue phones to ask for help finding their car or where a specific building is located at.
“We understand that we have a higher level of customer service than municipalities. If you called a municipal 911 operator to ask how to get to the library, they probably wouldn’t have a very pleasant response.” Brockie said.
Though University Police doesn’t mind assisting with these questions, what has become frustrating for them is when people activate the blue phones and then walk away, according to Brockie.
In 2018, there were 336 unresponsive calls that were reported.
“(Police dispatchers) are trying to make contact with someone and if they were there and if there’s other calls coming in, it could hold up a response to a true emergency,” Brockie said.
Dylan Sweaza, police dispatcher one for University Police, works to gather generic information from blue phone users so he can properly log it into the computer system and send an officer to respond to the call.
“We’ve had times where the same person calls and you can recognize their voice and their name. People like to use the service if they frequently have a class at night,” Sweaza said.
If people utilize the blue phones it can provide police dispatchers a more accurate location than calling 911 on a mobile phone.
“We know 100 percent where that pole is,” Brockie said. “The wireless 911 system from your cell phone is triangulating and it’s pretty good, but it’s not exact.”
University Police has police dispatchers scheduled 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So even if it isn’t possible to use a blue phone, students can still reach University Police with their mobile phones and any university landline.
“We’re trying to give faculty, staff and students as many options to contact an emergency dispatcher as they can,” Brockie said.