September 19, 2019

Emergency call box unrepaired for months

The emergency call box outside of Webster University’s West Hall had continuous malfunctions since last semester. Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said Public Safety addressed the problem but could not find a solution for months.

Giblin attributed the recent call box defect to the winter’s outdoor elements in the St. Louis area. Code Blue Technical Support Engineer Mike Vanburen said that could not be the case.

Graphic by Joseph Schreiber

Graphic by Joseph Schreiber

Code Blue emergency call systems, the brand Webster uses, work in temperatures at or above minus 40 degrees, Vanburen said. He added that Code Blue deploys products to Canada and Alaska.  

Giblin said the call box was a major frustration for Public Safety because new parts they received from Code Blue did not fix the issue. Vanburen said a major call box repair could cost up to $400.

Code Blue offers over-the-phone technical support for customers like Webster.

“They can even call us as they’re standing right next to the unit,” Vanburen said. “We can do the troubleshooting with them.

“Forty-nine times out of 50, we can get to the bottom of it.”

Giblin said Webster’s interaction with Code Blue did not go that way.

“While they may claim their boxes are impervious to the outdoor elements, all outdoor electronics eventually go through normal wear-and-tear,” Giblin said.

Giblin said the tall blue emergency boxes are old but did not specify how long ago they were installed.

Public Safety spent several months trading parts with Code Blue according to Giblin. An electrician working on campus last week looked at the call box and fixed a problem with the analog phone line, Giblin said.

The electrician corrected the analog phone line on Feb. 11, less than 24 hours after The Journal emailed Giblin concerning the call box.

He added that Public Safety will monitor the call box in the coming weeks to ensure it works. Public Safety tests all 27 emergency call boxes on campus weekly.

“We are well aware of the problems with this box,” Giblin said.

West Hall resident Andrew Golbranson noticed the yellow caution tape wrapped around the call box.

“Having one [emergency call box] outside of west should be essential to Webster,” Goldbranson said. “If it’s not there, it only creates tension.”

Goldbranson said he did not know where the next closest call box to West Hall was. It sits strapped on a light post just 105 feet away on the side of the building.

Goldbranson suggested orientation guides show students where emergency call boxes are around campus during the week before school starts.

Student Pierce Abplanalp said he believed he still saw the tape when the spring semester started, more than one month ago. He said the university never contacted him about the malfunctioning box during the months it was not in service.

Giblin said the university has plans to remove the tall blue emergency call boxes on campus and install a more modern version.

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