The installation of an intercom system, enabling direct communication from classrooms to the sheriff’s office, should be complete by the beginning of the Fall 2008 semester.
Nextel has created a one-of-a-kind prototype call box that teachers and students alike can use to directly speak to the sheriff in the case of an emergency.
“The box was designed for us specifically from Nextel,” said Paul Nieman, director of plant facilities at Pierce College. “There is nothing like this and it was neat to be a part of something that no one else has.”
An initial installation fee has not yet been determined and the yearly price to use the system has been roughly estimated.
“As far as cost, we’re looking under $20,000 annually,” said Robert Garber, president of Pierce. “Our goal is to have it installed by the fall but since the state budget is grim, our first priority is to offer classes people need.”
A simple two-button box will be located in every classroom and will give off no sound or light when activated.
“We have definite parameters,” said Nieman. “We want to make it very small and discrete.”
The intercom system will be used as a safety tool to protect students and faculty.
“If an instructor is having a problem in the room, like an active shooter, they can press a button on the box and the sheriff can listen to what is going on in the classroom,” said Nieman.
During the past year our country has witnessed the devastation of several college shootings. Last April, 33 lives were taken on the campus of Virginia Tech. On Feb. 15, another violent shooting rampage occurred at Northern Illinois University, leaving six dead.
In the case of a potential on-campus threat, an intercom system would be useful.
“I’m looking for a way to improve communication and safety,” said Garber. “There is no way as of now to communicate to classrooms.”
The box will function like a walkie-talkie, allowing users to make announcements to classrooms and listen in on a classroom if needed.
If the talk button is pressed from the classroom, the sheriff will be notified and can tell exactly where the signal is being sent from. If no sound is picked up after activation, the sheriff will have the ability to hear what is happening in the classroom, according to Nieman.
“You shouldn’t have to be worried about angry college students shooting your school up, but it happens,” said Tawney Soberal, a geology major. “I heard about Virginia Tech and it scared me because these people don’t have to be here. They’re not in high school anymore.”
With a student population just shy of 21,000, the cost of the system averages to about a dollar per student.
“In terms of human tragedy it is a worthwhile cost,” said Garber.