A Trail of Blue Lights

A Trail of Blue Lights

Student, visitor safety is paramount at FSU

Florida State University has a rich history of providing quality education to a diverse population. With its impress ive breadth of graduate, profess ional and undergraduate programs, FSU is demanding and intellectually stimulating, yet it provides a warm and caring environment for students and faculty.

Student and guest safety is paramount on FSU campuses so the university can create an inviting environment and continue to attract top talent. One of the university’s major public safety initiatives is the Blue Light Trail, which now constitutes more than 400 strategically placed blue light towers equipped with emergency phones and blue lights.

The towers are designed to give passersby a sense of security by providing a reliable two-way communication link with university police at the push of a button. The technology is not new, but it has nevertheless proven invaluable on more than one occasion. The number of towers continues to grow as the campus’s safety needs grow.

FSU has had a variety of blue light emergency phones from other manufacturers installed on some of its campuses, but this time it turned to Talk-A-Phone to provide the installations. Having multiple vendors on the site allowed FSU to test the blue light emergency phones thoroughly before settling on one vendor. Talk-A-Phone not only satisfied the university’s technical requirements and reliability tests, but it also proved that aesthetics should not come at extra cost.

Universities implementing the towers have the choice of a wide variety of color and lettering styles. FSU chose its theme color, Chilean Red, and opted for gold lettering on all four sides to reflect the university’s identity. The emergency phones were also customized to fit the needs of the university’s campuses.

“When we wanted a phone that would work with current vendors’ towers, they provided it and promised continued support for the phones no matter how old they are,” said Larry Downing, a network specialist at the university. “When we needed a delay timer in the unit so we could do some special alert messaging interface with the Red Alert, they designed one.”

Another distinctive feature of Talk-A-Phone’s emergency phones is their ability to fit into a majority of existing mounting accessories from other manufacturers, making an upgrade as easy as a simple swap of the phone.

Blue Light Safety, Even in a Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms and lightning are a grave concern for the FSU community. Located in Tallahassee, Fla., the university’s 15 colleges are in the heart of a thunderstorm-riddled region, leading the nation in an average lightning density per square foot. Needless to say, having a reliable emergency communication link is significant from both a legal and public relations perspective.

In the interest of safety for all facility staff, students and visitors, FSU developed a comprehensive emergency phone program. As part of this program, a full-time employee tests and repairs the blue light emergency phones in case of lightning outages.

“It is the belief of the emergency phone technician that the Talk-APhone units are more robust, particularly in the realm of surviving lightning strikes,” said Colleen Thomas of FSU’s telecommunications office. “While all phones are fitted with the same external surge protection, the units we have now are more often spared or at least are repairable when a surge is sufficient to get through the protection device.”

Although the university endeavored to protect the emergency phones with heavy-duty surge suppressors, severe lightning was still a major concern. Talk-A-Phone’s ability to stand up to storm conditions played an important role in FSU’s selection of emergency phones moving forward.

“With lightning being so prevalent in this area and having been a major factor in phone replacements in the past, we have experienced cost savings in this regard as well,” Thomas said.

Ingenuity, Luminous Efficacy and Safety

Satisfying unique environmental demands in various corners of the world is something that needs to be taken into account when installing outdoor security apparatuses. Possible lightning strikes are just part of that.

“When you have roughly 30,000 amps (and) 100 million volts making a direct contact with electronics, chances it will survive are minimal,” said Talk-A-Phone Chairman Samuel Shanes. “However, we have acquired a great deal of experience dealing with lightning and other environmental issues in our 75-year history of making products in the United States.”

Continuing the tradition of American ingenuity and manufacturing, the company introduced a new generation of blue lights. The units are ultra-bright, all-LED blue lights, featuring an exceptional 209 lumens peak rating and a prismatic pattern to enhance visibility at greater distances. The units' all-LED construction significantly increases their lifespan, ensuring they will be around to provide reliable service for years to come.

The biggest benefit of the new blue light lies in its reduced energy footprint. While being 15 times brighter than the previous generation, the new blue light is low-maintenance, safe to recycle and has superior luminous efficacy. The unit provides 19 times more lumens per watt when flashing and when in “constant on,” which brings significant savings to a growing number of energy-conscious college and university campuses in the United States and abroad.

The university’s decision to standardize its lights will continue to save scarce monetary resources while providing the priceless benefit of student and faculty safety. Confidence is at an all-time high at FSU that the blue light towers and emergency phones will operate effectively when they are most needed.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Security Today.

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