In case of emergency: out of order

She gets out of her night class a little early and heads to her car in the parking lot. As she’s walking she hears footsteps behind her. She increases her pace but realizes her car is too far away. As the footsteps draw closer and closer she runs towards an emergency pole and presses the call button … but will it work?

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By Erin Hudson

The emergency light by the Tech A building is one of several that are out of service. (Martin Iniguez)

By Erin Hudson

She gets out of her night class a little early and heads to her car in the parking lot. As she’s walking she hears footsteps behind her. She increases her pace but realizes her car is too far away. As the footsteps draw closer and closer she runs towards an emergency pole and presses the call button … but will it work?

Riverside Community College District campuses have emergency poles located throughout the campuses.

The emergency poles have a button that connects them to a dispatcher, like a call box, so students can crimes more easily and with a faster response.

These poles are to help keep students safe, at least the ones that are working.

Rosie Manriquez, a student at Riverside City College, has noticed the emergency poles that are presently not working.

“I see signs on a lot of them saying ‘Out of Order,'” Manriquez said.

Safety is a priority, especially for students taking night classes.

“I’m a little more nervous at night, I have a night class and I worry about going into the bathrooms,” Manriquez said. ” I think I would use the emergency call boxes … it makes me feel more secure knowing that they’re there.”

But the call box right outside the women’s rest room under the digital library is not currently working, and the single pole in the middle of the upper parking lot also has a tattered “Out of Order” sign on it.

Those are two of the places an emergency call might be needed most.

Sgt. Richard Henry with Parking Services and Police Communications at RCCD explains that the emergency poles are tested and maintained each month.

“We’ve had a lot of problems getting them up and running,” Henry said. “I would say 90 percent are working right now, but they go down all the time.”

Of the 37 emergency lights on campus that were surveyed by Viewpoints, only 7, or 19 percent of them, had “Out of Order” signs. This means that the actual figure of working emergency poles is about 82 percent.

Moreno Valley also has several emergency poles that aren’t working.

“I know Moreno Valley has three poles that have been reported as not working right now,” Henry said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

Three is only a handful of the many poles that have been installed, but they matter if they’re the ones closest to you during an attack.

One persistent problem is where the call actually goes.

“Not all the poles go to a dispatcher,” Henry said. “Some poles are cellular, in that the call gets sent to a cell phone, and that’s sometimes hard to keep maintained.”

UC Riverside has similar emergency poles, but with an added safety feature.

“We have blue emergency poles that are located in parking lots, and we are installing lots more in the inner campus as well,” Michael Andert, Detective at UC Riverside said. “Cameras are also being installed into these poles so not only do students talk to a dispatcher, the dispatcher can also see them.”

“The safety of the UCR campus is the number one concern of the UC Police Department,” said Lt. John Freese of the UCPD. “And functional emergency call box poles are a critical component of helping to maintain a safe environment.”

Something that does make Manriquez more comfortable is the obvious presence of police cruising the school not only at night, but during the day as well.

“So far I’ve felt safe here, and at night there’s always police driving around campus,” Manriquez said.

Henry is also pleased with the amount of police around the school.

“This campus has a pretty good patrol service, and we can call city police for backup if we need it,” Henry said.

The police here at RCC have also had some extra training.

“We have been conducting training with the county sheriff department for active shooting situations. We completed that training in the summer,” Henry said. “We train with Riverside police because of the numerous amounts of school shootings, such as Virgina Tech.”

In addition to training, there have been weaponry and communication upgrades. A backup communication system was installed over the summer.

“This is all to keep the students safe,” Henry said.

And the campus does feel safe, over all, but it’s hard to have faith in an emergency pole that has been broken for months.

“It is intended at some point for all of them to be up and running at the same time,” Henry said.

Let’s just hope they’re all up and working soon.