Panic buttons installed across college campus

Mar 2 2011 - 11:27am

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington State University has installed almost 100 panic buttons around its Pullman campus over the last 10 years. They are similar to those used in banks and cost up to $400 each.

About 60 buttons were put in place over the last few years.

WSU Police Lt. Steve Hansen said the buttons are spread throughout campus -- some are in private offices, including nonfinancial offices.

He said they're placed where there's a potential for an irate person to disrupt an office, which is advantageous so the employee doesn't have to let the person know they're calling for help.

"It's a way to give them security knowing they have options ... if they have an issue in their office," he said, one of WSU's 17 officers will usually arrive at the scene in two to three minutes.

When pushed, the button sends a signal to WSU's police office.

They could be useful in the case of a health emergency, he said.

Chris Tapfer, WSU's emergency management coordinator, said the buttons are just one part of the university's emergency response plans.

"We have a broad-based plan for safety, and we make it public," he said. They can be viewed online at www.safetyplan.wsu.edu, and each campus has a similar version.

Tapfer said the public safety office's main focus is to ensure different departments have their own plans in place in case of an emergency. Each department is different, he said, and plans for those that house animals are different from those that don't.

The public safety office, which includes police and fire personnel, conducts inspections and training sessions. WSU police officers train groups on personal safety and what to do in hypothetical situations, such as an active shooter.

He said that although times have changed, WSU has always tried to maintain a safe campus for the university community. It's not necessarily more dangerous now -- Tapfer said WSU is rated the safest campus in the state and one of the safest in the country.

WSU spokesperson Darin Watkins said the panic buttons come from the individual departments' own operating budgets and are put in place on an as-needed basis.

He said WSU has a growing interest in keeping students safe, and the buttons are part of a "profound push" to ensure constant updates on the safety situation on campus. Kelsey Husky can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 237, or by e-mail to khuskydnews.com. Follow her on Twitter: DNKelseyHusky.

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