Blue light emergency phones are a campus wide safety system for students, faculty and staff who need an escort or police assistance.
Pressing the call button on the phones automatically alerts the NAU Police Department (NAUPD) dispatch center. From there, two-way communication is established so the dispatcher can communicate with the person who pressed the button. Blue light phones also have speakers that sound alarms and broadcast emergency announcements when activated.
Each blue light phone is placed within sight of the next. The intention behind this feature is to provide security for those who think they are being followed. A threatened or concerned individual can press the button on a blue light phone as they move through campus, enabling NAUPD to track where they have been, where they currently are and the direction they are heading.
Dispatchers can also listen in through the speakers to help officers determine where a potential situation is taking place.
Robert Church, the director for the NAU office of emergency management, said the Safe Walk Program is another safety measure provided by the university, and that the use of emergency phones enhances the success of the Safe Walk Program.
“We use our safety aids during the school year,” Church said. “They are available if somebody needs an escort across campus, especially in the evening hours.”
After pressing the button on an emergency phone and connecting with a dispatcher, a person may request an escort through the Safe Walk Program.
Additionally, there are yellow emergency phones placed throughout campus. These devices also connect to NAUPD’s dispatch center but are specifically meant to be accessible to people just outside of dormitory buildings.
For students, faculty and staff who stay on campus after dark, the blue light phones can be particularly helpful.
Freshman Bex Hirsch said they help provide the backup that cell phones sometimes lack.
“I think blue lights come in handy, especially if you feel unsafe and your cell phone is dead,” Hirsch said. “Not everyone has a cell phone that works, and service is bad up here.”
Junior Lauren Blau said that because blue light phones are all over NAU, they are accessible from any location on campus.
“They’re always in walking distance anywhere on campus,” Blau said. “I think it’s a good idea.”
While some think the emergency phones on campus are a good idea, others push the buttons as a joke and leave before NAUPD officers can respond. It is common for a blue light safety phone to be activated only for NAUPD to arrive at a false alarm.
“Sometimes [the call button] gets pushed, and it’s not an emergency.It’s just young kids playing with it,” Church said. “[Dispatchers] are able to hear and will say, ‘Hey, I can hear a bunch of young kids laughing and giggling, it doesn’t sound like it’s a 911 call.’”
Even if NAUPD doesn’t think the situation is an emergency, they still send officers to double-check when a phone is activated. Church asked that the blue light phones be taken seriously so attention and resources can be allocated to actual emergencies.
“We take those [calls] very seriously,” Church said. “It is a life-safety piece of equipment. We treat it like a 911 call.”
Additional reporting by Montgomery Glaser