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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Taking advantage of campus safety

Evaluating the emergency blue light phone system 

The emergency blue light phone system is an emergency infrastructure used by colleges and universities across the nation, which allows those on a college campus to immediately contact public safety when experiencing a dangerous situation. However, as the number of individuals on campus who have access to cell phones increases, the system’s value has been called into question.

Saint Joseph’s University is one of many universities that has implemented this system, which is purchased and deployed, by a contractor. With a campus that stretches just over 100 acres, there are 256 blue light emergency phones, according to Arthur Grover, director of Public Safety.

Grover acknowledges that some in the public safety community question the value of installing these systems around campus.

“I understand that argument, but the blue lights have some other capacities [that a cell phone doesn’t],” Grover said.

Recognizing that not every person on campus may have a cell phone, Grover said he still sees value in the system.

“Suppose the incapacitation of the person was so much that they couldn’t articulate or couldn’t speak,” Grover said. “For example, pushing that blue light phone immediately lets our dispatcher at Public Safety headquarters know where that person is.”

Blue light emergency phone located outside of the Campion Student Center. (Photo by Joey Toczylowski, ‘19)
Blue light emergency phone located outside of the Campion Student Center. (Photo by Joey Toczylowski, ‘19)

While not all of the emergency phones on campus have cameras, many of them do, allowing Public Safety to see the individual and the area where the emergency button was pressed.

“We have a project that we are working on now at Saint Joseph’s with our facilities partners,” Grover said. “[It] is an integration capacity that we are bringing aboard. Once that blue light phone is activated, the area cameras will immediately focus in on that and give us the opportunity to actually see the person.”

Jill Bateman, ’19, who serves as the Public Safety Chair for St. Joe’s Student Senate, said that she has never heard of students having issues with the blue light system or needing to use it.

“I feel like sometimes a lot of the issues that occur—if there is ever a big problem that public safety needs to be called—occur off-campus where there [aren’t] blue lights,” Bateman said. “And a lot of the times in that case, you can call public safety.”

Bateman meets with Grover monthly to discuss any issues that the student body have addressed with Student Senate.

“We have been talking about the recent trends with the robbery and issues with the shuttle,” Bateman said. “So it is on his [Grover’s] radar, a lot of the issues that students have, and he wants to work together with the students to resolve them.”

St. Joe’s has a number of blue light emergency phones established throughout campus, there is no requirement that a university must comply with when it comes to how many lights must be present on a campus.

“[If] you look at the compliance requirements that bind the university under the Jeanne Clery Act, there is no guidance in there that the university must have them [the blue lights],” Grover said.

Grover added that because the blue lights are everywhere and immediately available, there is a perception of safety on campus, as well as the ability for Public Safety to view the situation in real time.

St. Joe’s has added more blue light emergency phones throughout the years, according to Grover.

Anjni Patel, ’17, said that while she would feel comfortable using an emergency phone, she still had some concerns about the system.

“They are so spread apart, I feel that it is also difficult getting to one,” Patel said.

Patel also said that even though she knew the protocol if the emergency button were to be pressed, she was unsure of how fast the response time would be.

“I feel like because we have the blue light system, it is less likely that stuff happens on campus, because I feel if someone was to rob someone, they would do it in the streets near campus, rather than on-campus,” Bateman said.

Grover explained that just last week, one of the emergency phones was pressed on Overbrook Avenue.

“It did not involve Saint Joseph’s affiliates, but a young lady that felt that she was in danger, rang that phone and we responded.” Grover explained. “This was a person in trouble, saw it, and recognized what it was, and saw the opportunity to push the button and we responded like we always do.”

All emergency blue light phones on campus are tested by Public Safety officers regularly.

“I understand why students in some instances regard blue light phones the way that they do,” Grover said. “I think they have value and I would encourage students to use them if they ever need them.”

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