New app a ‘safety tool kit’ for Main Campus

A new smartphone application is being implemented to increase safety on and around Main Campus.

BlueLight, created in 2013 by founder and CEO Preet Anand, was introduced to Temple in August after receiving positive feedback from a significant number of students, said marketing intern Cecilia Marshall.

“We add campuses to our network based on student need for it,” Marshall said. “Temple was one of the campuses we received a large amount of requests for. So we write down every time someone requests a campus, and Temple was one of those this summer that we were like, ‘Wow, there are so many kids who want to use this,’ so we ended up adding it.”

BlueLight’s features include custom alerts to friends and family about where students are currently headed around campus, along with directly connecting callers to a dispatcher, providing them with GPS coordinates and contact information even if the user cannot speak.

“We call ourselves a kind of ‘safety tool kit,’” Marshall said. Our point of BlueLight is putting safety in a person’s hand. … It allows you to know you’re going to get the fastest help possible on your mobile phone.”

Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said Temple Police is always considering partnering with and promoting the use of applications like BlueLight.

“It’s in the not-so-distant future that we as police agencies have to look at other means of communication,” he said. “Most people now, along with a phone call, would like to directly get in contact with police and forward information to police.”

A key reason why BlueLight has grown in popularity around the country—more than 250 college campuses use it nationwide—is because 911 calls do not always provide an exact location for dispatchers, Marshall said.

According to “911’s Deadly Flaw: Lack of Location Data,” a longform article by USA Today that focuses on this problem, the FCC is currently working with major cell phone carriers to require delivery of location data for 40 percent of cell phone calls by 2017 and 80 percent by 2021.

USA Today and other Gannett newspapers and TV stations determined from an analysis of hundreds of local, state and federal documents that users have anywhere from a 10 to 95 percent chance of 911 dispatchers receiving their location.

According to additional survey data provided by Marshall, 89.9 percent of calls sent to public-safety access points are from “callers who are lost or don’t know their exact address or location.”

Marshall said this is the case for many calls due to a variety of reasons: the callers can’t breathe, speak, their house is getting robbed or they are literally lost.

BlueLight also differentiates itself from TU Alert—the notification system currently used by Temple Police—by working for the victim itself, and not the entire student body, Marshall said.

“There’s the service that tells all students what happens on and around campus,” she said. “We’re the service that helps students when something happens to them.”

Although Leone said Temple Police is always considering implementing new services like BlueLight to enhance safety, one aspect is critical to what makes the cut: reliability.

“We want to make sure that whatever it is that we use, it’s as useful as it could possibly be, as close to 100 percent as it could possibly be,” he said. “So you really want to make sure you’re vetting it out and that you can hold some company accountable in making sure that it’s working properly.”

Leone added that ultimately, the difference between applications and systems like TU Alert is how users sign up for each respective service.

“You may opt to not download the software onto your phone,” he said. “That’s why with TU Alert, unfortunately, we try to take that a little bit out of your hands … because for the most part, people may not want to download the app.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@temple.edu or Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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