New emergency towers increasing safety at Christiansburg trail, parks

Help is just a push away

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. - Brand-new safety features are coming to a popular trail in the New River Valley.

The town of Christiansburg is installing nine emergency push-button call boxes along the Huckleberry Trail and in some town parks. At the touch of a button, if you're having a medical emergency or in a dangerous situation, help will be on the way.

All you have to do is push the button, and you'll be connected with a 911 operator who can dispatch a paramedic or police officer.

"That's amazing," said Laura Buckland, a nurse, who said a quicker response time can save lives.

"You never know when emergencies are going to happen and how quickly things can change: heart attacks and diabetic emergencies, as well as, you know, robberies and muggings," Buckland said. "It's a harsh reality of the world."

Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Director Brad Epperley said installing the towers is a proactive safety step.

"You never know when that need's going to occur," Epperley said.

The towers, which cost a little over $76,000, are solar-powered, have cellular capabilities to pinpoint someone's location and can record audio and video.

"Law enforcement officials or first responders can go back and look at that," Epperley said.

The towers will be spaced evenly throughout the town's 2.5- to 3-mile stretch of the trail and placed at three different parks: Downtown Park, Depot Park, and Harkrader Sports Complex. All will be in highly trafficked areas.

As Christiansburg installs these towers, WSLS wanted to see if another popular trail in southwest Virginia had the same technology.

Roanoke City Parks and Recreation said the Roanoke River Greenway and city parks do not have these emergency call boxes because there hasn't been a need for them due to the prevalence and effectiveness of cellphones.

In a statement to 10 News, Roanoke Parks and Recreation wrote:

"Roanoke Parks and Recreation is committed to providing a safe experience for our park and greenway users. We have a page on our website dedicated to greenway safety, and the department regularly meets with the Roanoke Police Department to discuss safety in our facilities. Based on citizen concerns we've received, our current focus is on sight-line improvements and better signage. However, we're always open to suggestions to improve park and greenway safety."

"Additionally, parks and recreation has Greenway Ambassadors regularly patrolling the greenways who are trained by Carilion Wilderness Medicine and the Roanoke Police Department. If you are interested in learning more about the Greenway Ambassador program or have questions about our greenway system, you can contact Renee Powers, Trails and Greenway Coordinator, at 540-853-5867 or renee.powers@roanokeva.gov."

A Roanoke City Police Department spokesperson released a statement to 10 News that reads:

"The opportunity to have those devices has not been explored yet, but we are always receptive to the safety concerns and needs are community and would be willing to look into utilizing the devices if that's something that the City of Roanoke and the Department of Parks and Recreation want."

Buckland said it couldn't hurt for other communities to install these emergency towers, too.

"I don't think it's ever going to be a waste," Buckland said. "Even if one person uses it and it helps, it's going to be worthwhile."

Christiansburg still has to finish installing all nine towers. Officials are hoping to have them up and running by mid-October.

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