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New mobile app ‘another avenue’ of safety at Dakota Wesleyan

A new campus safety app is bringing a better “peace of mind” to Dakota Wesleyan University.

Approximately a month and a half ago, the private Mitchell institute rolled out a new mobile app called the BlueLight Emergency Mobile App, thanks to $20,000 grant from Campus Consortium, a global education association.

And so far, officials said the app has been received well.

Chad Harvey, director of information technology at Dakota Wesleyan, said 15 percent of the university’s more than 678 on-campus students and 150 faculty and staff have downloaded the latest safety feature. And while the number of downloads is low, Harvey said he is pleased with the turnout and what it says about Dakota Wesleyan.

“We’re a pretty safe campus, a pretty safe town and state. It’s one of those things that gives students, and most likely parents, a little bit better peace of mind,” Harvey said. “We have a safety department on campus, and we work with local enforcement, but this just provides another avenue of safety and it’s great.”

The BlueLight app allows users to directly contact emergency officials with the “click of a button,” Harvey said, as well as provide the caller’s location to either campus safety or local law enforcement. Students and faculty can also customize the app to send alerts to others, such as parents, guardians, friends or family members in case of an emergency.

The app is basic, Harvey said, which is what the campus was looking for as to not overwhelm users. And it was geared toward being more mobile-friendly versus using actual BlueLight emergency phone systems that some college campuses utilize, Harvey said. The system, which looks like a light pole placed across campuses, allows students or other campus-goers to push a button that calls for emergency services.

Unlike the actual system, students can have the BlueLight app right in their pocket as well as other safety features. Harvey said another feature that has seem some interest among students is the “track me” feature, which allows users to give access to certain individuals — such as parents or a friend — to know their location.

Another reason for instilling the app is it can be used both on and off campus, Harvey said, as users can utilize the app while in other venues or locations in Mitchell — and even other cities. Using Sioux Falls as an example, Harvey said users can open the app and get information for Sioux Falls emergency officials rather than Mitchell.

The app became available to campus students and faculty on Oct. 13, and while few users have downloaded it, Harvey said an estimated 80 percent or more are aware of the BlueLight app.

So far, nobody on campus has used the app to call campus officials that Harvey is aware of, and he hopes it remains that way. The app was designed to be easy, mobile-friendly and as “helpful and useful as possible.”

“It’s been useful,” Harvey said. “And, again, it provides a more peace of mind and it helps that we’re really a safe campus anyway. I think it’s more like a parental thing in that we are keeping safety in mind for students, and it’s not something we take lightly.”