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  February 18, 2002

Upgraded Emergency System
Promotes Campus Safety
By John Wray

Faculty and staff, students and parents, alumni and other visitors to the Storrs campus can all feel safer now that the Division of Public Safety has an enhanced 911 communications system.

The new system, which became fully operational last fall, dramatically reduces emergency response times by automatically identifying the precise location where a 911 call is being made. This means that anyone can call 911 from any phone on campus and expect help to be dispatched immediately by the University police.

"We take the responsibility and safety of the people entrusted to our care extremely seriously" says UConn Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Robert Hudd, "and the new enhanced 911 system makes our campus even safer."

University police and fire department personnel responded to a total of 4,100 emergency 911 calls in 2001 and the department had already received 238 such calls by the end of January.

Police Captain Mark Fitzgibbons says the police can now dispatch a patrol car to the location from which the 911 call was made, even if the caller is unable to speak or explain what is happening. This can be particularly important in an emergency that requires quick action.

In one recent case, a member of the professional staff was experiencing chest pains and called 911 to summon an ambulance. The cardiologist handling the case credited the fact that the patient didn't go into full cardiac arrest, in part, to the speed with which the emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene.

In another case, the fire department responded to a 911 call regarding a flammable chemical spill in the basement of the School of Pharmacy. Quick action in that case prevented a fire from starting that could have caused extensive damage.

In a third case, a female student threatened with assault was able to push the Help button on a "Code Blue" phone, and campus police responded in less than one minute.

New Command & Control Center
The enhanced 911 system and the "Code Blue" emergency phones located throughout the campus are all part of a new upgraded communications system that coordinates public safety telephone and radio communications from a single command and control center at UConn police headquarters.

The center has two computer-based command consoles, each with multiple video screens that display all police and public safety activity for the day.

Public safety dispatchers monitor these consoles, responding to incoming calls as they are received, and coordinating communications with police patrol vehicles, the fire department, and other agencies as needed. The center also provides for instant messaging for those using Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf.

The dispatchers also communicate with "Husky Watch" student personnel carrying two-way radios, who monitor specific areas of the campus in the evening, and "Husky Escort Service" personnel who provide after-hours point-to-point escorts upon request.

Radio communications within the police and fire departments have also been upgraded and expanded.

The Police Department now has four radio frequencies dedicated to public safety, allowing for uninterrupted communications covering several events at the same time, and another four "ITAC" (international tactical) radio frequencies for communications with the State Police and other agencies outside the campus. The department also maintains a separate emergency control center to coordinate communications in the event of a large-scale emergency at the University.

"Code Blue" Still Growing
At present, there are more than 200 emergency phones on campus and the number is still growing. These include "Code Blue" emergency phones that have been installed at strategic locations throughout the campus: along major walking routes, at bus stops, and in parking lots, as well as wall-mounted emergency phones in parking garages, outside residence halls, and at building entrances.

The campus will have some 250 emergency phones when the system is complete.

The UConn Police Department in Storrs is also responsible for public safety at the Avery Point, Stamford, Hartford, and Greater Hartford campuses, and "Code Blue" emergency phones have been installed at these locations as well. Calls made at the regional campus locations alert local or State Police in each area.

High Visibility a Deterrent
"One of the keys to safety on campus is high visibility," says Hudd.

Frequent patrols by police cruisers with their red and blue lights on, and the "Code Blue" phones, which are lighted 24 hours a day, are highly visible signs that help is always available and easily accessible. These signs of police oversight and quick access to police assistance, he says, are important deterrents to crime.

"It is our responsibility to see that students, faculty, staff, and visitors to any of our campuses have the same high level of confidence, day or night, 365 days a year." Hudd says. "Vice Chancellor Dreyfuss, Chancellor Petersen and President Austin have provided the support necessary for us to make UConn the safest campus possible, and we are dedicated to achieving that goal."

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