Students nonchalantly walk by blue safety phones routinely on campus; cameras that monitor students while learning, or sleeping as the case may be, are visible in many on-campus buildings; security guards in the library are noticeable and expected.
While each of these security measures is nothing new to campus, students might be surprised to learn that all of the information gathered from the aforementioned security devices finds its way back to one central location.
Secured behind a locked door, only enterable with an identification badge and a code known to a select handful of authorized individuals, wherein even custodians need background checks before entering, is the nucleus of campus security: the campus dispatch center. Here, all the information gathered by phone calls, cameras and security guards is received, monitored and utilized.
Steve Goodman, communications center supervisor and security systems analyst, emphasized the breadth of information the dispatch center is privy to.
?We know almost everything that happens on campus,? Goodman said. ?Through 911 calls, cameras, building alarms, radios and contact with campus police, building security officers, traffic officers and communication with satellite security sites in the library, motion picture studio, Museum of Art and the MTC, we are able to keep well-informed and help respond to various situations that arise.?
BYU?s campus dispatch center, located within the University Police station in the Jesse Knight Building, is a room that ? along with a refrigerator, locker and sink for the use of employees that man the center around the clock ? houses a multitude of electronics that function to facilitate security operations.
The center is replete with multiple computers that contain software to detect building alarms, fire alarms, flood alarms, door tamper alarms and glass breakage alarms. The computers can perceive, through identification card scanning, the identities of individuals who enter buildings after they have closed.
The emergency dispatchers, five of whom work at the dispatch center full time and 14 part-time workers, also work with software that informs them of the locations of all police officers and how long they?ve been working on a call so dispatchers can know which officers are available to respond to various situations.
The security hub also contains two large screen monitors mounted on the wall that display the images collected by over 430 security cameras positioned around campus. Contrary to what some may think, workers do not constantly monitor the cameras surveying campus.
?It?s not feasible for us to watch everything all the time,? Goodman said. ?The cameras are ultimately a safety precaution meant to help students; we primarily use them to go back and look at past incidents to try to find criminals or witnesses of crimes; it is beneficial for us in that aspect.?
Security cameras proved valuable in November when a fire was reported in May Hall of Helaman Halls.
While there are no cameras in May Hall, the dispatch center was able to swing cameras monitoring LaVell Edwards Football Stadium around to face Helaman Halls and zoom in on May Hall to get a closer look at the severity of the fire and dispatch fire units.
While security center workers do observe security cameras, employees spend most of their time responding to phone calls.
?We usually get at least 10-15 calls per hour on an average day,? said Chris Black, an information technology specialist and dispatcher who has worked in the dispatch center for six years. ?It all depends, though; how many calls we get can depend on if its raining or snowing since there are more accidents in bad weather, or if it?s a holiday and there are hardly any calls. It really does vary from day to day.?
Students who have made calls to the center were surprised when told where their calls go.
?I have made a call to campus police before about witnessing an incident,? said David Sturgess, a freshman from Minden, Nev., majoring in international relations. ?I never knew all the calls were directed to one place and I think it?s very interesting to know all emergency situations are run through the center.?
The dispatch center also monitors weather safety, namely lightning safety.
There is a lightning sensor mounted on top of the Jesse Knight Building that detects lightning up to ten miles away. The football team cleared the field last season after lightning was detected closer than NCAA regulations allow. The precaution is also used to cancel intramural games if necessary.
While there are many security systems in place, none would be beneficial in this nerve center were it not for the well-trained employees that take on the responsibility of monitoring the security systems.
Dispatchers attend state certified emergency medical dispatch training followed by post certification, multiple tests, in-house training and a probation period.
Employees are also involved in monthly training within the center to keep techniques and methods up to date.
The most essential practice to understand, dispatchers said, is prioritization of emergencies.
?The most important part of our job is making sure people who really need the help get the help first,? said Conni Rodriguez, a full-time dispatcher. ?We need to make sure the baby that?s not breathing is getting help and then we attend to the person locked out of their car.?