This past summer, USF became one of 250 colleges in the US supported by the BlueLight safety app. BlueLight uses GPS location to keep students safe once they’ve moved away to school. In emergency situations, it tops traditional 911 assistance in that it determines the user’s exact location and contacts the nearest emergency responders. Students can also update an emergency contact list of family and friends, who will be sent an alert once the user is on the way home and upon safe arrival.Ceci Marshall, a marketing manager intern at BlueLight, says the idea of BlueLight was sparked during a freshman orientation at Santa Clara University, when CEO Preet Anand learned of sexual assault on campus, and realized the need for an emergency response system for students. The company was created in 2013, and 10 campuses around the Bay Area were the first added to its maps.
This summer, BlueLight doubled its campus locations, adding 125 schools to its system, including USF. When BlueLight adds a college to its list, it maps the college in considerate detail, including every building, business, and landmark so that the student’s location can be better determined and the closest responder is always contacted. Although BlueLight can be used off-campus and is not limited to college students, the app is most useful on college grounds.
Marshall says that BlueLight actually has a significant number of off-campus users. Although location accuracy is not as precise off-campus, Marshall is optimistic about the current status of the app. “Entering every single building nationwide is a large process, and it is something that at some point we will add and we will work towards, but right now, off-campus is a little bit less accurate than on-campus,” she said.
Marshall also mentioned that the app is growing in popularity with college Greek communities. “We also have a pretty large Greek prominence. People in sororities and fraternities have reached out to us and let us know that they’ve added their whole chapter to our app at different schools,” Marshall said.
BlueLight comes as a subscription service, and costs the user (or their parents) $9.99 a year. Some colleges, like Marquette University, have started paying this fee for their students and providing them with a free download of the service. “Because this is such an important service in making sure everyone gets the help they need as quickly as possible, we’ve seen that a lot of parents are willing to buy this for their children,” Marshall said.
Christina Sanchez, a BlueLight subscriber, has used it during her time at USF and says that the app is perfect for her independent lifestyle. She feels safe knowing her friends are aware of where she is while she’s out exploring the city alone. “We always say ‘text me when you get home’ after wishing people a safe trip. With this app you can do that and more,” said Sanchez.