Over the past several years, safety and security on college campuses has grown increasingly important. In light of countless shootings, like the Umpqua Community College attack on Oct.1, 2015, and high percentages of sexual assault cases at universities, the priority of any school or university should be maintaining student and staff safety on campus. That being said, Drew University, though it has made attempts to keep its population safe, could stand to improve the safety measures currently in place, specifically when it comes to emergency alert systems.
For one thing, reinstating a full-force Blue Light system would be extremely beneficial. A full system was once in place at Drew, but has since been extremely reduced. According to Rave Mobile Safety’s website, many campuses did away with the Blue Light system because they were extremely expensive––around $20,000 dollars for installation and $1,000 a year in upkeep––and because they were being used more for pranks and non-emergency situations rather than actual emergencies. The remaining working Blue Lights on campus are located on either end of the Glenwild parking lot behind McLendon Residence Hall.
Despite their cost, Blue Light systems should still be available near all parking lots, dorm halls and pathways on campus in case of emergency situations like fires, medical emergencies or instances in which someone is being threatened. Especially at night or when someone is alone, the ability to access a Blue Light that would give them direct access to campus security who would then call the police and necessary personnel, provides comfort and safety for parents and students alike. This would be especially helpful for high-risk emergency situations since cellphones are sometimes unreliable and, according to Campus Safety Magazine, Blue Light presence can aid in deterring criminal activity and reassure students who are walking around campus late at night.
Drew’s emergency alert systems could also be improved by more skillful and diligent use of the LiveSafe app. The university first implemented LiveSafe during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters in order to help with monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 and help with contact tracing people who interacted with those who contracted the virus. The initiative was not properly enforced as students were instructed to install the app, but Drew University did not follow up to ensure students did so or completed daily screenings, entirely undermining the operation and rendering it ineffective.
In addition to this, Drew could also maximize the potential of the app and use LiveSafe for broader student safety around campus.The app also features a variety of functions that give students direct contact to campus security and allows them to see live updates of security concerns around campus. If downloading the app was required for students, it would be an effective technique for communicating important alerts and campus safety measures. However, without follow through on required downloading of the app at Drew, its usefulness across campus as a low-stakes emergency alert system is severely diminished.
With increased presence of a Blue Light system and increased usage of the LiveSafe app, emergency alert system’s usefulness for student safety across campus would be vastly improved. The university should seriously take into consideration reimplementing Blue Lights across campus and maximizing use of the LiveSafe app in order to increase the real and perceived safety of Drew community members.