Over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, blue light emergency phones were misused nine times—all were identified as mischief calls.
In an interview with The Journal, Director of Campus Security Todd Zimmerman stated the cases are designated as mischief when responders can hear people on the line laughing or purposefully not responding.
An additional seven cases were designated as “no cause located,” which means that there was no response over the phone and when responders arrived at the scene, there was no one there.
Zimmerman clarified that any possibility of a mechanical failure triggering a false alarm has been ruled out.
Blue light emergency phones are located in foot traffic-heavy areas around campus. When a red button is pressed, it connects the phone to Queen’s Campus Security Emergency Report Services.
Most were installed in 1992, after a campus safety audit called for improvements to the emergency system on campus. These improvements aimed to help prevent, and respond effectively to, assaults or other emergencies.
Campus Security deals with misuse of the emergency phones every weekend, but Zimmerman noted that on St. Patrick’s Day the numbers were much higher.
Misuse of the blue lights poses a major problem for Campus Security.
It diverts personnel and resources to one location when there might be a real emergency at another. Responders are dispatched to the location every time a call is made, unless a phone operator identifies the situation as not being an emergency.
Abuse and misuse of emergency phones remains a major problem on campus year-round, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
In 2018, there were 44 cases of misuse identified as mischief, according to statistics published on Campus Security’s website. This is roughly consistent with the past five years, but down 50 per cent from a peak of 89 cases in 2011.
An additional 260 “no cause located” incidents occurred in 2018. This number shows a steady increase over the past five years from a low of 187 in 2013. The number of total misuses—mischief and no cause located combined—has risen 23 per cent over the past 5 years, from 247 in 2014, to 304 in 2018.
The University does what it can to deter abuse of the emergency phones, Zimmerman told The Journal.
“If we can identify who did it there are repercussions through the Non-Academic Misconduct [NAM] intake office,” Zimmerman explained. Depending on the severity of the abuse, the situation may necessitate the involvement of Kingston Police.
But Zimmerman said that awareness is the most important deterrent.
“People just need to educate themselves and be aware that it isn’t funny.”
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