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What is up with the cell?


If you have been in High School West for more than a few hours you obviously know about the building’s lack of cell service. Once you walk a couple of feet into the building, say goodbye to your bars. Most of the building is like a dead zone, no cell service, where you can’t make a call or text, but there is an underlying question which I think that all of us should be thinking about. What if there is an emergency and you need to call 911? Will we all fall to the classic trope of “no cell service, can’t call for help”, because if so, this could be a massive safety issue.

It is known that there is a phone in the main office that people can make calls from, but what would happen, if say, a potential threat enters the building and is able to take control of the main office, would our only way to call for help be cut off? I asked this question in an interview with Doctor Catapano, and he stated, “All the phones in the classrooms would be able to call 911 even if someone was able to take control of the main office”. So, even if someone takes the main office, the teachers in the classrooms can alert the police.

My next question was if he knew the reason why the school had no cell service. This was his response: “There is no device that prevents cell service. The school is just in a bad spot.” The faulty location confirms that the school is not trying to prevent students from using their phones by blocking cell signals. I then asked what would happen if a student did not have a cell phone and was staying after school when the office is empty, would they be not able to make a call?  Dr. Catapano’s response was, “The security guard at the entrance stays until 10 o’clock, and he can make calls to help students get their rides.” With that said, students are not out of luck, and they can still call their parents.

There were also other questions I has in mind: Could there be a way that the phone system can go down? How reliable is it? His response to those questions were, “The phone system is not perfect. They could just not work.” I questioned on how the phone systems could fail, but he did not tell me because it would be a security risk. I then asked if the worst case scenario happened and all the phones went down in the building, would we have to go outside in order to make a call? He responded by saying “there are some areas in the school that do have service”. He also stated that there are four red emergency phones in the building that cannot go down, and as soon as you pick it up, the police station, fire department, and EMS services will receive the call.

With this new knowledge about the emergency phones and the phone system I decided to ask some of my fellow students if they knew about this, and their general thoughts about the topic. I questioned two groups of students in the north cafeteria during 8th period. I asked the first group if they had any confidence in being able to call 911 in a classroom, and the general response was either a no or they had very little confidence. The following question was if they can call 911 from the school phones, the response was mostly no with some people saying yes. I then moved on to my second group, the first question I asked them was if they knew about the four red phones and the response was a definite no. I continued the discussion by asking if they thought that there was some sort of device that was blocking cell signals, and the response was no. I then asked if they can get cell signals in the building and they said yes, but they only get signal if they are near the front doors. Lastly, I asked them if they knew about the security guard, and how can make calls after school if there is no one in the office, and they answered no.

The responses that I received from some of my fellow students reflects the little trust that they have for their phones in making calls. What shocked me the most was that many students did not know about the four red emergency phones, or the fact that the security guard by the front door can make calls. This lack of knowledge about the communication systems in this school is a safety risk.

The ways I would fix these issues is by first, telling the students about these communication systems. I would next focus on making sure that no matter where anyone is in the building that they can get cell service, as well as making sure that the classroom phones are reliable and can work no matter what the conditions are. This examination of cell signals and phone systems have definitely made me more aware about how limited students are in terms of being able to communicate with those outside of the school. This disconnect is very ironic because the building has universal wifi coverage, allowing people to access all the information they want but with no cell service, yet no one can truly access the information that truly matters.