Hunter Lee | Daily 49er
Lights out for CSULB blue poles
Forty-seven Emergency blue poles are held "under maintenance" because of graffiti, faded blue lights, spiderwebs and technical difficulties.
This article was updated on Dec. 12
Imagine walking back to your car late one night after class, and from the corner of your eye you notice a figure in the dark following you. Your phone is dead, so you run to one of the blue emergency light towers stationed around campus, only to find a sign plastered on the surface: “down for repairs.”
Of the 239 emergency blue poles across Cal State Long Beach, as many as 47 poles are not functioning properly, according to the Phone Repair List for September 2017. According to Sgt. Keith Caires of the University Police Department, these 47 poles are labeled as such for various reasons. Spiderwebs, graffiti and washed-out blue lights are a few of the things that can get pull an emergency light tower under maintenance. Caires said 10 light towers are currently out of order.
“Realistically, we treat [tower alerts] like a 911 call,” said Caires. “So even if you don’t say anything on the line, within a few minutes someone will be checking on that callbox.”
A recurring theme between Physical Planning and Facilities Management and Telecom Request Management, the two departments responsible for repairs, is determining whose jurisdiction repairs fall under.
Facilities Management is in charge of issues that include custodial clean ups such as graffiti or spiderwebs dirtying the tower and dim or broken light bulbs. Telecom is responsible for functioning and operations problems with the phone lines such as faulty call buttons and connectivity issues.
Over four lights on the repair list have been neglected for repair for as many as five checks during community officers’ monthly campus inspections.
Once a month, campus police sends out their Community Service Officers to make routine checks of the phone lines. When a phone is in need of repair, campus police will then notify either Telecom or Facilities Management depending on the necessary repairs.
“Once we leave, we have no responsibility for knowing if someone took it down,” Caires said. “We try to put up ‘out of order’ signs but once we depart the area, we have no idea if someone’s going to mess with it or take it down.”
It is unclear why the broken light towers have not been addressed; both Telecom and Facilities Management have been unavailable for comment regarding unaddressed repairs.
“If [an emergency tower] is not functioning, campus should make that a top priority,” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Terri Carbaugh said.
According to Carbaugh, Long Beach spent around $15,000 on total repairs from January 2016 to August 2017.
The towers serve as more than just a dire emergency service, as students are welcomed to call in smaller cases involving a dead car battery, locked keys in a vehicle or forgetting the location of a parked vehicle.
“Why stand there waiting for a half hour [for other services] when you can just press the button on the box and we’ll be there in five minutes?” Caires said about the lack of campus awareness surrounding the emergency towers’ uses.
Compared to other CSU campuses in Southern California, Long Beach has the highest number of emergency lights.
Cal State Northridge has implemented different methods of management. Of the 98 emergency towers on campus, only three are in need of repair, according to Captain Scott VanScoy of CSUN University Police. Fixing the broken towers only takes 24-48 hours.
The Northridge campus’ first set of emergency towers were provided by the Associated Students organization.
“Since that time, the Associated Students has allocated maintenance money for the blue light phones system,” VanScoy said. “Even though we pay for the light to come in, they are paying for the maintenance.”
Many students, especially those enrolled in night classes, rely on these emergency services to keep them safe, but with almost 20 percent of the phones experiencing issues that safety is not guaranteed.
“It’s terrifying and I have a night class,” said Shonda Demont, a junior marketing major. “Without those here I would feel insane.”