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CSU finds value in seldom-used emergency blue lights

Blue light emergency call boxe
Blue light emergency call boxes are located across campus to be used in contacting emergency services. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

Students rarely use Colorado State University’s blue emergency light call boxes, but campus security still considers them an important safety resource.

The emergency call boxes, otherwise known as “blue lights” due to the identifying blue light on the box, ring directly into the CSU Police Department dispatch center through the push of a button.

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Blue light phones are powered at all times and would work even if cell towers were down. When activated, they allow authorities to immediately pinpoint the location of the caller. 

The campus has 65 blue lights, many of which can be located on the main university map.

For situations where a person cannot use a cellphone, CSUPD says the blue lights remain an important safety offering on campus.

In an email to the Collegian, CSU Police Chief Scott Harris wrote that it had been quite a while since a blue light phone was used for an emergency. The last two emergency calls were for personal injuries—one from a student who fell off a skateboard and another who fell off a bike. In 2012, a student called in after being robbed.

Jasmine Gallegos, a freshman biology major, both knew what the blue lights did and could identify one in the green space by Lory Student Center.

“I think they’re definitely something good to have around campus, but I have never personally had to use them,” Gallegos said. “It’s nice to know that there’s something that I could use in emergency situations.”

Last year, the Collegian found that CSU’s blue light emergency call boxes cost about $5,000 annually to maintain. According to Heidi Friedrich, from CSU telecommunications service orders and billing, that cost has likely not changed.

In 2015, CU Boulder removed all of their blue lights following the introduction of their security app, Lifeline Response according to an article published on CU’s website.

However, in an email to the Collegian, Dell Rae Ciaravola, CSU senior communications coordinator,said there are currently no talks of removing the lights at CSU.

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Monica Rivera, director of the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, said while blue lights may influence broader campus safety, she does not consider blue lights a necessary resource in preventing sexual violence.

“I’m not anti-blue lights,” Rivera said. “I just don’t think they’re necessarily a particularly utilized or effective method of preventing (sexual) assault. But, even in terms of response, I can’t think of survivors we’ve ever worked with who have utilized a blue light.”

Stranger rape is relatively rare, diminishing the effectiveness of the publicly placed blue lights, according to Rivera.

“(Blue lights are) a somewhat benign thing on campus,” Rivera said. “Where I do start to have much stronger opinion is if I hear (staff or police) telling students they are a way to stay safe. I don’t think they are a way to stay safe. But, they are another way besides just a cellphone to alert authorities.”

Emergency blue light phones are listed as one of the campus security programs on the CSU 2017 Annual Fire and Safety Report along with residence hall security and proper building access.

“It is important to note that there is no evidence that the presence of these phones prevents crime, and on almost all occasions the victims of a crime on campus call for help from their cell phones and don’t need the blue light phone,” Harris wrote. “However, the phones are a safety feature on campus that continue to offer a sense of reassurance to parents, students, employees and guests that there is a way for them to call for help if they cannot use their cell phones for some reason.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.

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