The University of Canterbury is about to go live with a new high-tech security system designed to speed up response times to critical incidents like natural disasters and on-campus attacks.

Thirteen towers are being installed over the university's two campuses, each with a built-in emergency phone that connects to security staff at the push of a call button.

The US-made Talk-A-Phone security systems have become widely used by colleges throughout the US and Canada in the wake of a number of mass shootings at schools and universities.

Standing three-metres tall, each help point pole has a blue strobe light on top which flashes brightly when the alert button is pressed, drawing attention to the person in strife.


Mounted cameras give the security operator a real time visual on the person who has pushed the button and speakers enable live or pre-recorded emergency messages to be broadcasted throughout the campus.

One of the major prompts for getting a new system in place was the massive earthquake of February 22, 2011, said University spokesperson Alex Hanlon.

"The reason we've put them in is because, following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, we thought it would be extremely helpful to have a broadcast system."

When the $1 million system was officially launched on April 10 it would greatly improve the university's ability to respond to any future incidents, she said.

If someone walking across campus at night became concerned for their safety, they could run to the nearest tower and hit the emergency button, Hanlon said.

Cameras would immediately swivel around and zoom in on the activated station, giving security staff "eyes and ears" on the subject and surrounding space, she said.

"The idea is to see not just the person but also the area immediately around them, which is crucial if someone feels they are being stalked and about to be attacked."

Hanlon said although she hoped serious incidents would never arise, it was crucial that the university was ready for the worst-case scenario.

"In the US it's quite common to have shooters on campus," she said.

"That's not something we like to think about but one of the things we learnt from the earthquakes is it's better to be prepared."

The University of Canterbury is not the first in New Zealand to roll the system out.

In 2009, the University of Otago replaced its aging emergency phones with 16 Talk-A-Phone units located throughout the Dunedin campus.

"The phones have been an excellent investment as they act as a deterrent to crime and have enhanced the safety of the campus for staff, students and visitors to the University," said David Richardson, University of Otago's director of student services.