The emergency blue light phone system is a scarcely-used but valuable asset for students, university officials say.
Lt. Cameron Wassman of the Central Michigan University Police Department said the 26 blue light phones on campus are only used about a dozen times each year. Despite the phones only being intended for emergency use, half of the calls logged are for non-emergency situations, typically about parking.
Wassman said the phones are commonly used to report suspicious activity. However, there have been rare cases where students have used the phones to report more serious circumstances.
While the phones are still viewed as an important tool for students on campus, the increased use of cell phones and other personal communication devices have made the use less essential than in the past.
“Over the years, the evolving (use) of cell phones, and the fact that everybody has one, has decreased the use of blue light phones,” Wassman said. “They do still play a very important role in safety. Despite the cell phone phenomenon, we intend to maintain the blue light infrastructure.”
The installation and maintenance of blue light phones are sparce, said Mark McDonald, director of networks for the Office of Information Technology.
The emergency phones cost about $1,000 each to install. Annual yearly fees are a moving target, depending on how many phones need maintenance. At least one phone needs to be repaired or replaced every year, Mcdonald said, costing the university roughly $500 each.
CMU pays about $2,500 every year to maintain the blue light system.
The cost of the phone system pales in comparison to other technological systems OIT oversees, such as physical security systems.
Despite the low use and the annual fees, McDonald said blue light phones are a worthwhile addition to the university.
“I would suggest it would only take one situation where a student is able to get help because of the blue phones to warrant their presence,” McDonald said. “Let’s say their phone is in their purse or otherwise unreachable. It’s an additional layer of security for students.”
Despite the increase in crime in recent years, Wassman said there is no discussion aiming to increase the number of blue phones present.
“When new parking areas are developed, the need for a phone is evaluated at that time,” Wassman said.