New UI phone system allows remote access, changes emergency-call system

The University will roll out a new phone system, which offers remote access to the network but also changes how 911 calls are processed, in the coming months.

The new system frees users from having to connect to a specific phone jack on campus and lets them connect with the phone service through their computer anywhere in the world, as long as the user has Internet access, said Andrew Nichols, senior life safety engineer for the University. A call to the Illini Union from New Delhi will cost the same as a local phone call in this system.

Because phones are no longer tied to a specific location in this system, emergency calls are handled differently.

“Whereas computers on the campus wired network have correct location information, that goes beyond anything we can control once you go off campus,” Nichols said. “A 911 call will look the same whether it comes from here or Canada.”

Calls from University phones made on campus will still be connected to a specific jack that is tied to a location, but the system will not be able to determine the location of a call made off-campus.

To compensate for this, a third party, 911 Enable, was hired to manage emergency calls when the system cannot determine a location.

“They have trained emergency operators on call 24/7, 365,” Nichols said. “If there’s no location information, it (the call) will go directly there.”

Nichols said emergency phone calls from University phones have been declining, although exact statistics are unavailable, because cellphone usage has risen.

This system will also be integrated into users’ email, instant messaging and online calendar, and Nichols said it will save the University millions of dollars. Emergency phones, including kiosks placed around campus and those in student dormitories, will continue to function the same way.

Nichols said the system is being developed and tested now, but the aspects affecting 911 will not be rolled out until mid-April.