When American University, located in Washington, hired a new director of public safety, Daniel Nichols, one of his first goals was to update the university’s aging security infrastructure, which included installing emergency phone wall mounts and towers throughout the campus from Talk-A-Phone, Niles, Ill. Nichols, who had previously spent the last 27 years working for the U.S. Capitol police, most recently as assistant chief of police, hired Integrated Security Technologies (IST) to oversee 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, and he started off by making sure everyone was on the same page.
Ruddo focused on clear communication and acted as the liaison between all departments involved in the project at the university as the project unfolded, which helped address any issues right way.
“We laid out the engineering and design and then went over it with all the parties, so that everyone’s concerns were addressed and accommodated,” Ruddo described.
The first thing addressed was the emergency tower color, Ruddo shared.
“The university’s architect, facilities, public safety, and IT departments all had different ideas and concerns regarding the emergency phones, even down to the color. Everyone got together and we settled on a color called Purple Haze. That’s how IST works. We got everyone at the university involved so everyone could end up happy with the result.”
The project called for the installation of 25 new towers in place of aging and out-of-date units. Fifteen of those had to be integrated with new security cameras.
The existing units consisted of a telephone and a blue light attached to a thin, four-foot-high metal pole. Those 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.
Campus police wanted to make sure that they had updated security surveillance coverage across the campus. 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.
In the digital age of cell phones it is not always obvious how emergency phones are beneficial to the campus community, but location information is one key benefit. Nichols explained, “The advantage that we have with these units over cell phones is that we don’t have to guess the location of the caller. We automatically know where they are and we can remain in contact with them while we’re on route.
“These units show that we are directly connected in a variety of means to the campus community, and 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,” he said.
Vivian Roussel, an American University sophomore, said, “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.”
According to Nichols the new units are also 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,” he said.
Nichols considers Talk-A-Phone a “large part” of the university’s upcoming master security plan. However, this project wouldn’t have been possible without a reliable partner such as IST that focused on communications from the very beginning of the project, creating a positive and active link between individuals and entire departments at American University. Everyone’s ideas and concerns were addressed and ultimately a new and advanced integrated security system was put in place.