Emergency Phones

What exactly are Emergency Phones?

Emergency Phones are deployed as a reliable means for direct communication to the 24/7 University Police Communication Center. At University Park, there are over 90 Public Emergency Phone Towers, which are sometimes referred to as “blue light phones.” Additionally, there are more than 350 elevator emergency phones, more than 40 parking deck emergency phones, and numerous courtesy phones through Housing that are equipped with emergency call buttons. All of these Emergency Phones are tested regularly for proper operation.

As the University constructs new facilities or completes major renovation on existing facilities, the University evaluates plans for additional Public Emergency Phone Towers and revises as necessary.

Who manages the Emergency Phones?

The Office of Physical Security in the Penn State University Police and Public Safety (UPPS) Department, in cooperation with the Office of Physical Plant and Information and Technology Services, manage the Emergency Phone system.

Where are the Public Emergency Phone Towers (sometimes called “blue light phones”) located at University Park?

View map here: Emergency Phone Map

Describe the features of the Public Emergency Phone Towers.

The Public Emergency Phone Towers are connected via analog phone lines making them immune to the types of call failures and reliability issues associated with cellular phones. Many of these Emergency Phone Towers are also equipped with surveillance cameras so that University Police dispatchers who receive emergency calls can view the caller and the surrounding area to help assure there is no immediate threat to the caller. This is all done while University Police patrol officers are dispatched to respond to the location of the emergency.

What are the different types of Emergency Phones? 

Stanchion – A stanchion unit is a pole/pedestal type phone with a blue light and a 360-degree camera. There is a University Architect approved stanchion which is a Talk-A-Phone stanchion. The color standard is a Black stanchion with “EMERGENCY” lettering in white on the unit. Phones are equipped with an emergency call button only (with no keypad for dial-out elsewhere). These phones are configured to dial to the Police Communications Center at University Park. There is no central funding in place for Emergency phone installations. These phones are typically project or customer-funded. 

Wall mount- A wall mount emergency phone is typically installed in parking decks, or on buildings. These units include a blue light and a Talk-A-Phone unit. An exception to the blue light would be an Area of Rescue phone unit installed inside facilities when the building code requires them. These are typically in stair landings on non-at-grade floors. These phones are configured to dial to the Police Communications Center at University Park.

Elevator – Elevators are equipped with a Talk-A-Phone unit. These phones are programmed to dial to the Police Communications Center at University Park.

How often are Public Emergency Phone Towers used?

While calls from University Park Public Emergency Towers are not tracked separately from other emergency calls, we know that the phones are used infrequently. The infrequent use can be compared to that of a building fire alarm, which is rarely used; however, it is a critical tool for a true emergency. While use is limited, public emergency phones are an important resource should anyone need to utilize the tool during an emergency.

How much does it cost to install Public Emergency Phone Towers?

The cost per Public Emergency Phone Tower can differ drastically based on what level of construction is required to install, how far infrastructure is away from where the phone is deployed, and what technologies we include in the unit. Installations require trenching, conduit, walkway modifications, and infrastructure (including analog phone lines to meet emergency communication requirements). Also, many locations require landscape and walkway modifications in order to accommodate the tower and maintain ADA accessibility. Generally, a single new Public Emergency Phone Tower has an installation cost of at least $15,000 with some costing more $20,000.

How are the Public Emergency Towers maintained?

UPPS tests Emergency Phones through the use of Student Auxiliary officers. The Office of Physical Plant performs any necessary corrective maintenance. The monthly phone line costs associated with the analog phone lines are paid by UPPS.

How is the Penn State Community made aware of the Public Emergency Towers?

Penn State as a whole promotes the Public Emergency Phone Towers in a variety of ways, such as discussing the system during orientation events. Additionally, information is located on the University Police and Public Safety website: https://police.psu.edu/services.

How are the locations for Public Emergency Phone Towers determined?

Locations for Public Emergency Towers are determined through individual assessments associated with major construction projects.

How does the Public Emergency Phone Towers help support campus safety?

The Public Emergency Tower system can offer some reassurance to the Penn State community simply by knowing the system exists and that it is available in an emergency. The system is also a critical tool during a true emergency as it alerts police to the location of an emergency so that police and other emergency personnel can respond.  

Are all Public Emergency Phone Towers currently properly functioning at University Park?

If a phone is found to be non-functional during testing, it will be repaired as an emergency work order. Non-functioning units will be placarded as “Out of Service” until the repair is complete. To find out more, contact the Office of Physical Plant.