Quiet arrival, big sound: Blue towers light up campus

Sophomore psychology major Danielle Beam and sophomore secondary education major Hayley Miller look at a new safety box as they walk past the main building on September 3, 2013. Photo by Emily Wuetcher | Staff

Sophomore psychology major Danielle Beam and sophomore secondary education major Hayley Miller look at a new safety box as they walk past the main building on September 3, 2013. Photo by Emily Wuetcher | Staff

By Morgan Eads | News Editor

Update: Police Chief Joe Monroe said Wednesday the emergency towers will be up and running by Friday.

Midst the building of dorms and the renovations of buildings, extreme updates to safety systems on campus have passed more quietly.

Over the summer, bright blue emergency towers were installed to replace outdated emergency stations, which is part of a $5 million safety initiative by the university.

The new towers are in 26 locations around campus and cost about $260,000 to install, said UK Police Chief Joe Monroe.

He said they are more than just a flashy version of the old emergency phones.

Cameras and loud speakers are among the new features on the towers, though some are still wrapped in plastic.

Monroe said the remaining towers should be up and running by “any day now.”

In case of severe weather or other type of emergency situation, each of the new towers on campus can broadcast a warning, he said.

The police department hopes this feature will help reach maximum coverage of campus for alerts, Monroe said.

Not every student on campus is signed up for UK Alert, which is the text and email alert system on campus, and this extra layer of alerts will help spread crucial information more quickly.

Equally helpful are the cameras mounted on each tower, Monroe said.

When one of the emergency towers is triggered, a call will go to UK police dispatch and the feed from the camera will appear on the screen of the dispatcher.

The camera will help to better tell what kind of help is needed and allow the dispatcher to see who they are talking to, Monroe said.

The emergency phone cameras only make up a small portion of the cameras now on campus.

With 500 cameras recently added, there are around 1,000 total security cameras on the main and medical campuses.

Most of the cameras are outside or at the access points of buildings, Monroe said.

The hope is that these cameras will allow quick identification of suspects if an emergency occurs.

Though this surveillance could cause privacy concerns for some, several students said they think the changes are positive.

“It’ll come in handy if something bad happens,” said Claire Jaworski, a Spanish freshman. “It’s not like I’m doing something bad that I don’t want to be spied on. If something happens we will be glad it’s there.”

New boxes will allow students to swipe into buildings after hours with their new IDs will also give UK police a better idea of who is an area in the case of a crime or emergency, Monroe said.

Police can see who has swiped into the buildings at certain times.

“We can look at it if something happens,” Monroe said. “But that is not something we would just look at otherwise.”