American University: Blue Light Emergency Phone Initiative

American University: Blue Light Emergency Phone Initiative

American University (AU or American) is a private, Methodist, liberal arts, and research university in Washington, D.C.

Talk-A-Phone recently met with Daniel Nichols, the Directory of Public Safety for American University, to talk about security and safety on campus among other topics.

For more video interviews visit Talk-A-Phone’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/talkaphoneco

American University, located in Washington, D.C., recently hired Daniel Nichols as their new Director of Public Safety. Mr. Nichols spent the last 27 years working for the U.S. Capitol Police, most recently as their Assistant Chief of Police. One of Mr. Nichols’s goals was to update the aging security infrastructure at the university. In order to accomplish this goal, Mr. Nichols had to find an adaptable integrator and a reliable product to follow.

Talk-A-Phone has been involved with American University since 2005 and their relationship has only gotten stronger over the years. The university installed Talk-A-Phone’s emergency phone wall mounts and towers throughout the campus.

Mr. Nichols shared his thoughts on the presence of Talk-A-Phone at American University, “I think the response is very positive. It serves two purposes. One, it shows that we are directly connected in a variety of means to the campus community. The second thing is that by having these units that are so visible and easily accessible, it is reassuring to our community that they can summon police assistance immediately.”

The installation of these towers means that we don’t have to have police officers at those locations all the time, allowing them to engage in other patrol opportunities…This cuts down our costs and allows us to allocate officers to where they’re needed the most. The integration of security cameras with our emergency phones only enhances our response time and awareness across campus.

Daniel Nichols
Director of Public Safety
American University, Washington, D.C.

American University had to hire an integrator to oversee the project before the installation of the new emergency phones. Michael Ruddo, Vice President of Business Development for Integrated Security Technologies (IST), took on the task of managing the American University project, “We made sure that everyone’s concerns were addressed and accommodated. We laid out the engineering and design and then went over it with all the parties.”

The project called for the installation of twenty-five new towers in place of aging and out of date units. Fifteen of those had to be integrated with new security cameras. According to Mr. Ruddo the integration went smoothly, “The cameras were really the only piece that needed to be integrated. We mounted the cameras right to the tower arms without any issues. All information flowed into the public safety dispatch center without a hitch.”

Mr. Ruddo acted as the liaison between all departments involved in the project at the university. The university’s architect, facilities, public safety, and IT departments all had different ideas and concerns regarding the emergency phones. “The first thing addressed was the emergency tower color,” Mr. Ruddo said. “Everyone got together and we settled on a color called Purple Haze.” He added, “Everyone got along well. That’s how IST works. We got everyone at the university involved and everyone ended up happy with the result.”

In the digital age of cell phones it is not always obvious how emergency phones are beneficial to the campus community. The American University’s Director of Public Safety, Mr. Nichols, had only been on the job for a few weeks when he established his stance on the subject. As a highly experienced industry professional, Mr. Nichols shared his take on the benefits and need of such products on American University’s campus, “The advantage that we have with these units over cell phones is that we don’t have to guess the location. We automatically know where they are and we can remain in contact with them while we’re on route. I personally tested a Talk-A-Phone unit the other day, just to see what the response would be. As soon as I pressed the button I got a dispatcher on the other end. That’s what we intend and it certainly meets the needs of the campus community.”

According to Michael Ruddo, IST ran into a few minor challenges while upgrading the security phone infrastructure. The existing units consisted of a telephone and a blue light attached to a thin four feet high metal pole. These units, along with their cabling infrastructure and small concrete ball bases, needed to be removed before the installation of the new, more durable towers.

IST then installed new cabling from the nearest buildings to accommodate the new emergency phones and surveillance cameras. Concrete bases were poured so that the towers could be installed. Security cameras and emergency phones were mounted and connected to the new cabling. Because the towers were connected to an existing switched AC power feed, Talk-A-Phone also supplied their backup power system with all the components mounting cleanly within the tower. This ensured that all electronics had power at all times.

American University wanted to make sure that the Talk-A-Phones were accessible to every student no matter where on campus. Additionally, campus police wanted to make sure that they had updated security surveillance coverage across the campus. Mr. Ruddo helped with integration of the emergency phones and security cameras. Each emergency phone activation triggers nearby and built-in surveillance cameras to focus on the location of a caller.

Mr. Nichols elaborated on the ease of locating an emergency communications point on campus, “By having these Talk-A-Phones in strategic locations around campus, the students and visitors can easily and readily identify the locations where they can summon police assistance.”

Many institutions around the country have had to tighten their finances in these difficult economic times. According to Mr. Nichols the new units are used as “force multipliers” on American University’s campus, “The installation of these towers means that we don’t have to have police officers at those locations all the time, allowing them to engage in other patrol opportunities…This cuts down our costs and allows us to allocate officers to where they’re needed the most. The integration of security cameras with our emergency phones only enhances our response time and awareness across campus.”

Several students wanted to share their thoughts concerning the new emergency communications equipment. Vivian Roussel, an American University sophomore, had the following to say about the new products, “As a student you know that there’s always something nearby as a safety tool if you run into a problem… As a girl it’s nice to know that if I press this button someone will be there for me. I feel like someone is always with me.”

Mr. Nichols also mentioned that Talk-A-Phone was a “large part” of the University’s upcoming master security plan. It is reassuring to know that Talk-A-Phone is an integral part of the American University campus and that both officers and students alike appreciate their presence. However, this project wouldn’t have been possible without a reliable partner such as Integrated Service Technology. Mr. Ruddo created a positive and active link between individuals and departments at American University. Everyone’s ideas and concerns were addressed and ultimately a new and advanced integrated security system was put in place.

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  • Date May 27, 2016
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