Winter is coming and with it, darkness on the commute to and from campus. Help make it safer by joining Walk After Dark, an annual event that brings together Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), ASUU, facilities management, public safety, and volunteers to conduct a survey of safety related issues across campus.
“We split volunteer groups into teams to walk around campus, looking for areas with low lighting, cracked sidewalks, tripping hazards, even overgrown shrubs where someone could hide,” said Brandon Newell, occupational safety manager at the U. “It all gets reported in real time through a web portal, GPS-tagged so facilities can fix the problem.
The Walk After Dark event is on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, with check-in beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the theater of the A. Ray Olpin University Union Building. There, you can choose an area you’d like to walk and enjoy the swag bag, coffee, donuts and hot chocolate to fuel your stroll. Register here.
EHS has conducted annual safety walks since the early 2000s, mostly focused on lighting levels. But they needed help.
“Our office has grown, but we used to have less than 30 people, walking around with paper maps trying to pinpoint issues over several nights,” said Jen Stones, associate director of operations and logistics at EHS. “About 8 years ago we opened it up to the campus community, because everyone on campus has some interest in keeping us safe.”
The technology has changed from the early days of paper maps—the facilities geographical information systems (GIS) team developed a tool that makes it easy to report the location and type of safety hazard right from your phone.
“You just click a location, pull down a drop-down menu, put specifics in there and it gets logged onto the webpage,” said Newell.
The top issues are mostly lighting levels, either due to nonfunctional lighting fixtures or areas of perceived darkness. Do you have any pockets of darkness around your office or classroom that gives you the creeps? Report it during Walk After Dark. Any lighting issue that you report will be remedied using lighting fixtures that direct light downwards, minimizing lighting pollution and preserving campus’s dark skies.
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Research communications specialist, University of Utah Communications