Enhanced campus 911 locates call’s room, building

Marisa Maldonado

Local police will have the ability to identify a campus phone number’s exact location beginning in early June through a state-mandated update that Northwestern officials said will improve the efficiency of both the police and fire departments.

In addition to determining the building location, the enhanced 911 system will provide departments with the room in the building from which the call stems. All emergency calls from the university now will go straight to Evanston police’s 911 line, though campus phone user still must dial 456 on campus to reach the emergency services.

NU officials had expressed concern that the new policy, announced Fall Quarter, would delay the response time from University Police or force Evanston Police Department officials to respond to calls.

“Clearly UP are going to be able to respond quicker and have a better idea of the campus,” said UP Sgt. Merrill Silverman.

If EPD receives a call about an incident still in progress, the department will send the call through both its and UP’s radio system. If the incident already happened, the department will call UP directly.

The new feature will allow police to make more accurate calls and ensure quicker response time, especially when the fire department or ambulances are needed, Silverman said.

Incidents such as the sighting of a suspicious person also could be identified faster, Silverman said. In the wake of two reported attacks on Northwestern students last week, he urged students to be careful of anyone looking suspicious.

“If someone were to pick up a phone in Leverone (Hall) and want the police, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t stay on the phone, we would know exactly where they were,” Silverman said.

Police also will be able to identify locations of disabled people and will be better prepared to give them extra assistance in situations such as a fire, Silverman said.

Service will not change for the Chicago Campus because those calls already go to the Chicago Police Department, Silverman said.

Tom Board, NU’s technology support services director, said some departments will be inconvenienced by the elimination of “multiple appearance” telephones, which operate like a switchboard and show when other phones are in use.

Between 300 and 500 of these phones will have to be replaced as they would confuse the new system, he said.

“The problem is, in order to comply with the intentions of the law, we have to make sure any phone number that dials 911 delivers the correct and only address to which that number would appear,” Board said. “Those situations have to be resolved in some way as to comply to the safety need as well as to figuring out the business needs.”

Because Ameritech officials already have installed the additional circuits needed for the change, Board said there will be few other inconveniences to the NU community as a result of the switch.