A Universal Solution
Hillsborough Community College improve security infrastructure
- By Samuel Shanes
- Jan 01, 2013
In recent years, colleges
across the country have
upgraded and improved the
way they monitor, assess and
respond to security incidents
on campus. Unfortunately for
many departments around the
country, the continuing economic
downturn has led to
budget and staff reductions,
which in turn have posed a serious
challenge to college police
and security departments. As a
result, campuses now have to
rely on improved infrastructure
and tools in order to
police their respective populations
Emergency phones have been an important
part of the security landscape at educational
institutions for some time. Beginning as simple
two-way communication devices, they
have evolved into multipurpose tools for
improving campus safety and security. Newer
devices can not only provide needed assistance
to distressed individuals, they can
remotely monitor areas when officers aren’t
available, tie-in with access control devices
and video management systems and broadcast
mass notification messages to large areas
Knowing that these tools are now available,
many colleges have started looking at emergency
phone towers as a way to leverage their
infrastructure investment and compensate for
cuts in budgets and staff.
Hillsborough Community College (HCC)
in Florida has been at the forefront of adapting
its security infrastructure and police force to
unfortunate budgetary cuts and staff limitations.
In order to overcome these constraints
and properly police its 48,000-student enrollment,
HCC turned to Talk-A-Phone Co.
A Towering Force
Victor Clime, chief of public safety for HCC,
was introduced to Talk-a-Phone’s emergency
phone towers that incorporate emergency
communication, mass notification, camera
surveillance and access control capabilities. He
said the towers are able to increase the effectiveness,
capability and response of the his
“Our towers used to only be emergency
phone towers,” Clime said. “We now have
emergency phone towers with mass notification
capabilities, cameras and other tools.
Because of budgetary constraints, every safety
department across the country thinks they’re
undermanned. I certainly felt the same way.
“These towers act as a force multiplier for
me. They provide eyes and ears to my officers.
They provide a voice when I need one. It allows
us to quickly respond to situations and patrol more effectively. It was definitely an investment that was worthwhile.”
There are dozens of emergency phone towers installed across the college’s
five campuses. Sporting a safety blue color and intense LED blue
light on top, the towers are hard to miss during both day and night. The
number, size and visibility of the towers create an easily identifiable
perimeter around and throughout each Hillsborough campus.
“We even have them in our most remote locations,” Clime said. “Students
are aware that these units are around. While on campus, you can’t
look in any direction without seeing a tower. They remind students and
visitors that my guys are always ready and watching. I know that students
appreciate them, and I know my officers do, too.”
A Potentially Vital Connection
The towers act as a two-way communication device with an uninterrupted
connection. This means that a person needs only to activate the
tower once in order to have a continuous connection to the campus
police or dispatcher. This feature is especially helpful for people who
need the use of their hands during an emergency. Additionally, every
time a tower is activated, the exact location of the unit is relayed to the
dispatch center. This saves the dispatch center time in trying to figure
out the location of the call, especially if the person who activated the
tower does not know his or her location or cannot respond verbally.
“When someone activates a unit, our department immediately
knows their location and what’s going on,” Clime said. “This has shortened
our response time and improved our service provision to the
college as a whole.”
In order to police the college’s sprawling campuses, the chief maximized the
efficiency of his patrolling police force. With a lack of officers available,
Clime again saw his new emergency phone towers as the solution.
Extended on an architectural CCTV arm above each tower are dome
PTZ cameras that provide surveillance before, during and after an activation.
With these cameras, Clime’s dispatch center was able to watch all
areas of campus while working shorthanded. The towers act as patrolling
officers, relaying up-to-date information at a moment’s notice.
“We’ve had instances where we’ve identified suspicious activity on
campus through our cameras,” Clime said. “In one case, we had someone
trying to break into several vehicles on the far side of campus.
Students saw this and activated a tower. We saw this through our cameras,
and our department responded immediately. We were able to
catch the person and stop the crime.”
Furthermore, the cameras can help identify people during an activation—
not only the person who activates the unit but others who are at
access control points and gates, as well.
Whole Campus Protection
Another benefit for Clime and his officers is the mass notification
capabilities of the towers. Near the top of each tower are four highpowered
speakers capable of providing 360-degree coverage.
“Hillsborough Community College had to be in compliance with
mandates, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, requiring
mass notification capability across campus,” Clime said. “What was
great about our new towers is that they not only provide us with emergency
communication and ‘eyes in the sky,’ but they also include mass
During an emergency event, there may be a need to send out a mass
notification message. Visitors, faculty, staff and even students may not
have immediate or direct access to college emails, texts or other lines
of communication. The towers cover any of those voids and make sure
that if a message needs to be sent out, everyone on campus will receive
clear and detailed information. The dispatch center can broadcast from
towers individually or in groups. This allows Clime’s department to
send specific messages to some or all areas of campus with ease.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.
Samuel Shanes is the chairman of Talkaphone.