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Photo by Kristina Soetje.

Safety concerns around new Event Center

UMBC Memes for Smoke-Free Teens is a forum for posting entertaining content regarding UMBC campus life. However, on Tuesday morning there were multiple pictures posted on the page containing images of safety concerns surrounding the Event Center.

“Not a meme but just so everyone is aware, I took a little walk this weekend to the new Event Center and noticed a few safety issues. All of the newly installed safety lights were not lit, and the buttons for calling emergency services from them were not fully installed and did not push. There were at least 3 that I saw,” the caption read.

When asked about his post, EMT-B Harrison Lewis replied, “The blue lights are put up for a reason: to allow students to feel safe at night. In my opinion, it’s irresponsible for the Event Center to have been opened without these safety lights being operational or even fully installed. There are stickers on the lights directly over the unpressable buttons explaining how to install them. Kinda funny really. But I know that if I were feeling unsafe at night and were to go to one of those blue lights, I don’t think it would be half as funny.”

Deputy Chief of Police Paul Dillon responded, saying, “Safety of UMBC students and faculty is of the utmost importance to campus police.” He pointed out the safety devices located around the building to ensure student and faculty safety.

There are emergency telephones located around. Dillon states that he was aware of the malfunction in the telephone located outside of the Event Center, however he stresses that he never believed this to be a safety concern for those passing by. The matter was brought to his attention and, within three days, the phone was fixed.

“In today’s day and age, with the accessibility of personal cell phones, it is very unlikely that if you are being attacked, you would run over to the emergency phone instead of using your cell phone to call for help,” Dillon said. In regards to the safety lights, Fire Marshal Michael Pound stated that the lights were inoperable for four days.

The final safety concern Lewis mentioned was the opened Knox Box. To address this he states, “Possibly more importantly, the red and black box in my picture is called a Knox Box. It is meant to contain a key to the building for emergency services (especially fire personnel) to enter the building in case of a fire, mass casualty incident or disaster. This box was not only opened but empty.”

The Knox box’s website describes their product as, “Trusted by thousands of fire and law enforcement agencies for over 40 years, Knox Rapid Access Solutions have provided first responders with immediate access into secure buildings, campuses, residences and commercial properties when it matters most. Removing barriers to entry reduces injuries to responders and minimizes property damage.”

According to Dillon, however, the Knox Box is rarely used. Should an incident arise which requires outside assistance, the firemen responding to the scene will be accompanied by a UMBC official who would have a key to open the building already.

Pound added that all fire departments within the area which have the potential to respond to an emergency at UMBC are frequently trained and given a detailed tour of the area ensuring that, should an incident arise, they would be familiar with the area and protocol.

Firefighter Christopher Lancaster Jr. from Baltimore County station 36 offered insight into the matter, stating, “If the new basketball arena has a Knox box mounted on the building they have to have something inside so the fire department can open the doors because if there is an emergency after hours we need to be able to get inside and investigate. If there is nothing in the Knox Box there is no real purpose of having one and [we will] have to force entry to get inside.”

In response to Lewis’ claims that the Knox box was open and without a key during his visit, Dillon agrees that the box was not fully operational yet. He states that there was a two-day period in which the box had not been set up, meaning the key had not been locked in the box yet. He delved further into the matter, explaining that the Event Center, while open for visitation and some use, is not completely open. He was aware that the box was open, however, he does not believe it put the students or faculty of UMBC in at any risk during that two-day period.

Both Dillon and Pound believe they maintain a safe campus, including the newly built Event Center which is, “one of the safest places on campus,” according to Pound. The facility was designed with a smoke evacuation system and multiple cameras to ensure the safety of anyone inside or outside the building should an emergency arise.

They encourage direct contact to report problems found with safety equipment on campus, rather than posting on a public forum where authorities may not see the post. More information regarding UMBC campus safety regulations and policy can be found at