Shedding light on campus' darker corners

A look at Dal Security's annual "light walk"

- October 26, 2012

Drew Tavener (left) of Facilities Management, with Mike Burns (director of security) and Rochelle Owen (director of the Office of Sustainability) on the night walk. (Brenda MacPhee photo)
Drew Tavener (left) of Facilities Management, with Mike Burns (director of security) and Rochelle Owen (director of the Office of Sustainability) on the night walk. (Brenda MacPhee photo)

Campus is an ever-changing place. So to keep it safe after dark, Dal Security coordinates an annual fall “light walk” to proactively protect the university community.  

Every fall since 1996, Dal Security has gathered a group of volunteer students and staff to survey Dal's Halifax campuses in their entirety, looking for places that may create risks after dark.  

“We’re looking for anywhere lighting is out of place, anywhere it’s too dark, or any landscaping issues that might be a hazard,” said Mike Burns, director of Dal Security.

Fixing issues

The majority of under-lit areas can be fixed with the mere change of a bulb – a testament to the effectiveness of the program in previous years. In other cases, placement of new bike racks or pathway may have brought a previously low-traffic part of campus to life and a new standard is necessary. Either way, Security Services works with operations staff in Facilities Management to have the problems taken care of.

According to Rochelle Owen, director of Dal’s Office of Sustainability, the campus-wide lighting retrofit underway will not only save on energy, but it will make campus a brighter place indoors and outdoors.

The new T8 and LED lights and brighter and have a longer life than the older technology bulbs currently used in most standards on campus. This means fewer darkened areas for Facilities Management to keep on top of. The new lights also maintain a consistent brightness throughout their lives, whereas the current bulbs drop to half-light after an extended period of use.  

Some lights on campus, though, such as a bulb we identified no less than 50 metres out from the Security Office, take a bit more effort.

“Some of the lights along the streets are maintained by the municipality and not by the university,” explained Drew Tavener of Facilities Management, observing a darkened streetlamp on LeMarchant Street. "We let HRM know if any of their lights are not working and they will fix or replace”.

Broader view of safety

The walk is about more than just changing light bulbs: volunteers also keep an eye out for broader safety issues. One concern that was raised was the visibility of the Security Services emergency poles.  

“I would have thought the poles were just for flyers and advertisement,” noted Jake Exton, one of the students along for the walk. “I certainly wouldn’t have noticed it if I was in a panic.”

Larger problems like this have to go through the Facilities Management planning process, but the volunteers at the walk started to brainstorm ideas to make them more identifiable, such as labelling them in Dalhousie colours.

A proactive approach

At the end of the night, the group leaders from Security Services and Facilities Management compared notes on what needs to be done. After three years on the walk, Mike Burns knows how effective a proactive approach to lighting can be.

“If you put up lights, a lot of problems go away,” he says. “It does make a big difference.”  

Security Services also welcomes input from the university community year-round about areas that could be made safer. Suggestions can be sent to, or made in person at the Security Services office in the McCain Building.


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