Truman looking to remove safety poles

The Department of Public Safety is considering the gradual removal of safety poles around campus as a result of low usage and the cost to maintain them.

The safety poles cost Truman State University $5,000 to $6,000 each year depending on the need for repairs. In the past five years, one actual report came from the safety poles; others were false alarms or pranks.

“I know that they’re a visual cue of security for people; however, they’re very rarely used,” Director of Public Safety Sara Holzmeier said.

Low usage could be because of Truman’s small town location. Unlike other universities, Truman is not located near a major interstate, and Kirksville residents have a purpose for where they live, meaning they are occupied with professional or family commitments to the area, Admission Director Melody Chambers said.

The safety poles are outdated, as technology has become mobile and they are costly to maintain. DPS does emergency phone tests twice per month to ensure everything is working correctly. When they find an impaired safety pole, repair is costly.

Given the high repair costs and rare usage, DPS is considering a plan to remove the safety poles. As they malfunction and the repairs outweigh usage, they would be taken offline and eventually removed, Holzmeier said.

DPS is looking to upgrade and utilize modern technology. The money currently used to maintain safety poles might go toward a campus safety app. Because almost everyone carries a cellphone, the app would be more accessible.

“The problem is if you’re going to use the emergency poles, you’re going to have to stop running or walking, push the phone and stay right there,” Holzmeier said. “Whereas if you have a safety app, you could dial 911 from the app or push a panic button. You could keep moving, you could keep going.”

Because many cell phones are GPS-enabled, DPS would be able to track a person’s location. Even if that person is not able to talk, DPS would receive the location where the panic button was pressed.

To spread awareness of the app, DPS would post advertisements for the app in previous safety pole locations as well as high traffic locations like Pickler Memorial Library. DPS could make videos on how to use the app and its services, which would be available through the department’s website, Holzmeier said. During Truman Days, DPS is given 45 minutes to speak to incoming freshmen about safety, campus rules and active shooter training. If the app is developed, they would organize a talk about the campus safety app.

To inform prospective students and families about safety on campus, admissions works with DPS.

Student ambassadors are required to meet with Holzmeier to learn about safety statistics and what resources are available to Truman students. When giving tours to prospective students, ambassadors are currently trained to discuss their own experience with safety on campus, the lack of frequency with safety poles, and resources such as escorts and DPS, Chambers said. At freshman orientation, parents attend a safety session where they learn about available resources, general safety and the emergency text alert system.

If the safety poles are gradually removed, student ambassadors would attend a training session or receive an email or newsletter on the new safety app from an adviser. To ensure prospective students and families are aware of new safety procedures, ambassadors would discuss the changes during tours.

“I’ve always thought that safety poles are kind of a mixed thing,” Chambers said. “The fact that they’re there probably causes families to think more about if this is a place where people have to be concerned for their safety.”