Are blue lights outdated security blankets?

Kathryn Williams, Editor in Chief

The blue light system on the campus has been a point of contention for quite some time now. I have heard students complain about call boxes not working properly, about not having enough blue boxes on campus, and that the system is ineffective. 

To learn more about this issue, I sat down with Rob Browne, Director of Safety and Security, to discuss some of the concerns. I had previously received information from another source that when the blue light button is pushed, campus security is not alerted to the precise location of the call and must drive around campus to check every blue light. This would be alarming, considering how quickly an emergency situation could develop during the time it would take a campus safety officer to locate the source. 

According to Browne, this is not correct information. “Anytime the blue light buttons are pushed for the phone call goes directly to Goffstown police dispatch and, because our blue lights are each numbered, they know the location of where the button was pushed,” he explained. Campus security has radios that are direct to Goffstown PD dispatch, so Goffstown PD will use the radios to alert Saint Anselm Campus security to the blue light call. 

The effectiveness of blue light systems is debatable. In Browne’s opinion, their main purpose is for optics. He explained how the blue lights were installed before many people had cell phones and the technological advances of today outstrip the call boxes. “If you’re running away from an emergency situation, do you want to go and stand in one location and wait for it to come?” Browne asked. Many messages from Campus Security have reiterated the message to immediately call 911 if you sense any kind of danger. It is safer to call for help on a phone and move to a safe location than to rely on a blue light.

Getting rid of blue lights is an idea that would likely shock many. They provide a sense of security just knowing that they are there. However, Browne states that in a given year there are almost no alerts from the blue light system and when there are alerts they are usually pranks or false alarms. The technology that we have is incredibly outdated. When it comes time to repair them, it would be an expensive project to protect a broken system that no one uses. The College should look into a more effective system to ensure student safety in emergency situations.