Help at the push of a button

Student using the emergency buttons. Photo by Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

By Sydney Fairbanks

Youngstown State University has an emergency system in place for students, staff and faculty in need of help on campus. 

The system uses emergency buttons that connect users to the YSU Police Department Dispatch Center with one push. 

The buttons are located around campus as either towers with blue lights or brightly colored wall units that act as emergency phones.

Photo by Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

Shawn Varso, chief of the YSU Police Department, said a button shares the user’s location with a dispatcher.

“When you push the button, that location is automatically given to the dispatcher,” Varso said. “While you’re conversing with the dispatcher, an officer is being dispatched to that scene.”

Users can push the buttons for help from the police, fire department or Emergency Medical Services.

Photo by Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

While the system is effective, the technology is outdated. Varso said the emergency button system is used less frequently now as most students, faculty and staff own cellphones.

“We’re taking a look at how many times someone uses it for an emergency purpose,” Varso said. “What we’ve seen so far — not a lot. For emergency purposes, people are using their cellphones.”

The YSU Police Department works with Information Technology Services to ensure the phone system is up-to-date and operational. The police department and IT services are working on a multi-year project to improve the system and update the technology.

Tower phone emergency button. Photo by Sydney Fairbanks / The Jambar

The current system is hardwired into the university phone system and relies on a power supply. Varso said the new system might run on solar power. 

“[There are] call boxes now that are marketed that work off of cellular systems instead of having it hardwired into the university phone system. It’s all self-contained. There’s no power that needs to run to it. It runs off of cellular,” Varso said.

Varso explained the future emergency system may also be a combination of emergency phones and cellphones to allow instantaneous contact. The goal is to help students as fast as possible.

“We want to be able to expedite, we want to be able to get fast reaction, fast response to anyone who does need help when you’re on campus,” Varso said.

Varso said he hopes the system will be completed within the next two years.

Students with non-emergency concerns can call the YSU Police Department at 330-941-3527.