Colgate’s campus underwent phone outages due to a fiber cable break at a major junction of Colgate’s phone service provider, FirstLight, last Thursday, October 3. The cable break occurred in Phelps, New York and affected much of Central and Upstate New York, in addition to the Finger Lakes region for about five hours. This issue disabled inbound and outbound calls to and from campus phones, although calls could still be made from one campus phone extension to another and by using cell phones.
Associate Vice President of Campus Safety, Environmental Health and Emergency Management Dan Gough explained that while outages like these are rare, they are very disruptive and Colgate has measures in place to work around such issues.
On Thursday, Director of Engagement and Support Ahmad Khazaee sent a campus-wide notification, which instructed people to call 911 or to dial extension x7911 on any campus phone in case of emergency; community members could also use any outdoor “blue light” phone.
“Different departments have established protocols to deal with these situations and…[ITS] will partner with these departments to help establish these protocols from a business continuity perspective,” Khazaee said.
Gough outlined Campus Safety’s procedures when dealing with an emergency such as this one: After notifying Madison County 911 of the network difficulties, Campus Safety refers to their analog phone, the “red phone,” and relies on personal cell phones to dispatch and make outgoing phone calls.
“[The red phone] provides a back-up means…and is tested regularly and at the onset of any campus-wide phone service outage,” Gough said in an email statement.
Although Campus Safety relies heavily on their phone system, other departments and offices were not grestly impacted by the outages. Career Services Office Manager Jessie Darrow explained that her office did not feel any impact from the outages.
“[Career Services] is able to troubleshoot through other means of communication like email, messaging through Handshake, and in-person visitors to the front desk,” Darrow said in an email statement.
Similar to Career Services, only a few students were impacted by the phone outages. Sophomore Bonnie Chin, who was unaffected by the situation, believes Colgate efficiently handled the outage.
“It makes sense that departments like Campus Safety would need to have a major situation like this under control, since communication is so crucial, so I think it’s reassuring that they have a backup plan and procedures to ensure that they can respond in a timely manner,” Chin said.