In response to recent violence on college campuses throughout the United States, some colleges are attempting to heighten student safety through the use of smartphone apps.
One of these apps is BlueLight, an app that uses GPS location to allow a user’s family and friends to track him or her and alert them when the user has arrived safely at their destination. The app also routes emergency calls to the nearest possible emergency responders, providing the caller’s exact location to dispatchers.
Plattsburgh State and approximately 100 other colleges in the U.S., including all SUNY schools, are registered as part of the BlueLight network as of the beginning of the semester.
The app can only be used on college campuses that have full-time police or security dispatch.
“The app has two primary features,” BlueLight marketing intern Cecilia Marshall said. “The first is ‘On My Way’ location sharing, and the second is ‘Request Help’.”
For some students, BlueLight’s features seem most useful at night when students could potentially get separated from friends.
“I think a lot of college students plan to walk home with people, and they end up alone,” PSUC senior Jenny Horowitz said.
Although others, such as PSUC sophomore Darryn Bradt, said they believe the app would be helpful for someone in trouble who “wasn’t near one of the bluelight stations on campus,” BlueLight has garnered little student attention at PSUC.
Out of 100 PSUC students surveyed, only four said they had heard of the app.
The lack of student use could also be linked to another factor — the cost.
Anyone who signs up for the app receives a free, one month trial. After that trial expires, the app costs $9.99 per year for any user registered with a college email address. For nonstudents, it costs $19.99 a year after the 30-day trial.
Before Sept. 1, subscription was free.
“I would hope that it would be free,” Bradt said, “It’s not something that I would pay for here in Plattsburgh.”
Bradt said that if he were attending school somewhere else, such as New York City, he would consider purchasing the app.
Though Horowitz said the concept of BlueLight is one that could be of interest to students, she said the cost of the app is simply “too much.”
The other option, Marshall said, is for the college to pay the subscription fees for students. While some schools have opted to do this, PSUC has not.
Although she said the fees “may be a problem” for students, Marshall said the cost is potentially something that could be paid for by a parent.
From the standpoint of law enforcement, this app may help increase emergency response time. According to American Police Beat, the average response time for emergency services is approximately 10 minutes, and severe situations may prevent callers from being specific.
“A lot of people cannot tell their location in an emergency,” Marshall said. “This app is a solution to this problem.”
Despite the fact that BlueLight has gone largely unnoticed by students at PSUC, freshman Alex D’alo said she believes the app is a valuable resource for students because it provides an “extra safety precaution.” D’alo also said that in her opinion, BlueLight is a worthwhile investment, even though there is a yearly fee.
“Better safe than sorry,” she said.
Email Thomas Marble at firstname.lastname@example.org