Oregon State University recently installed emergency telephones in 120 classrooms to make access to dispatchers easier during campus emergencies.

Anyone who picks up a phone will immediately be connected to a campus dispatcher who will assess the situation and send officers from either the Oregon State Police station or the OSU Department of Public Safety to the scene. The dispatcher is also able to tell where the call originates.

“It’s going to help us deal with any unruly persons who may be in the class or show up to interfere with the class,” said Jack Rogers, director of public safety at OSU.

The first leg of the installation cost $60,000, at an average of $500 per classroom. Rogers said the cost was fueled by the time spent running cables into the classrooms.

He added that since the deadly 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, colleges across the country are finding new ways to protect their students, faculty and staff.

The phones are another addition to OSU’s security measures, which include 14 blue emergency phones at various outdoor locations, yellow emergency phones in each residence hall and phones in every elevator on campus. These phones also immediately connect with a dispatcher.

In addition to making outbound calls to dispatch, the phone-equipped classrooms are connected to the OSU Emergency Alert system and can receive recorded messages that brief listeners on an emergency situation and give instructions.

Rogers said a professor could answer the phone, listen to the message and relay the information to the class.

The first and only time the Department of Public Safety used the alert system for an emergency was for the March 31, 2009, incident where Nathan M. Lenahan barricaded himself in a house on Northwest 25th Street near the OSU campus while police and SWAT team members surrounded the residence. Text messages, e-mails and prerecorded phone messages were sent to everyone registered on the automated system, instructing them to avoid the area.

Rogers said the dependable alert system — which has the capacity to store up to six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses and a text message contact number for 45,000 different people — will be helpful in case of further emergencies.

“There’s no way you could not receive that message if you’re signed up,” he said.

Rogers, who declined to say which classrooms received the phones, said the Department of Public Safety plans to eventually install emergency phones in every classroom.

A representative of the registrar’s office said it’s difficult to say how many classrooms are on campus since every department categorizes classrooms differently, but reported that the registrar’s office schedules classes in 120 general-purpose rooms around campus.

Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9518 or at gail.cole@lee.net

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