Blue safety phones to be removed

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  • While the blue safety phones will no longer be present around campus, the Rave Guardian app can connect students with more extensive emergency services, including a safety timer and call directory.

  • The blue safety poles were originally installed in high-traffic areas on campus in the ‘90s. Since the introduction of cell phones, the blue phones have had very little usage. The transition to the Rave Guardian app reflects an effort to keep up with changing technology to best serve student safety.

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UNI Public Safety implements Rave Guardian app to replace safety poles on campus

The blue safety phones scattered across UNI’s campus since the ‘90s are being removed and replaced with a 21st century safety solution – an app called Rave Guardian.

The blue safety phones were originally installed across highly trafficked areas of campus to assist those in an emergency situation to alert the authorities with just the push of a button. However, with the introduction of cell phones, these blue phones quickly became outdated and experienced very little usage. 

Chief of UNI’s Police Department, Helen Haire, noted how the blue phones were a good idea in the ’90s, but are not practical in the 2020s.

“If you are in need and if someone is following you, are you going to stop and pick up that blue phone?” Haire said. “You probably aren’t going to want to do that. At the time that was the only option. But now you have a cell phone and you could call someone and keep walking.”

Haire added, “We have to think about what [the students] want, need and will use. When we talk to students they may be aware we have the blue phones because campus tours may mention them, but when we ask them to tell me where one is, nobody knows.”

The Associate Director of UNI’s Public Safety Department, Joe Tyler, spearheaded the push to get a more updated safety feature for UNI’s campus. They decided to use the safety app Rave Guardian to serve UNI’s campus. The app has numerous features including safety timers, call directories leading to the UNI Police Department, UNI Counseling Center, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Sexual Assult Support and other helpful resources. Additionally, users can call UNI Police or 911 with just the push of a button. Tyler and Haire collaborated with University Relations and IT to create this app.

“We are turning the corner,” Tyler said. “This is getting into the 2020’s, which is good. I think the students will love it. Our hope is that it will continue to grow and that students will use it. The more students who use it, the better.”

Haire added,  “[The Rave Guardian app] is so much more adaptable to the students’ needs.”

The app can be personalized to the user, which can include information about place of residence and medical conditions. In an emergency, this profile will be presented to responders for a more efficient response. 

The app will also allow UNI Police to detect where an emergency call is coming from compared to the blue phones which alerted police to an emergency, but often not the exact location of the emergency. Visitors on UNI’s campus can also download the app and use it if necessary. 

One of the features Tyler is most excited about with the new app is the Safety Timer. This feature allows the user’s friends or family to monitor their status updates and location, and will notify them at assigned check-in times. If the timer expires, the app will notify their designated personal guardian. If the user pushes the panic call button, the UNI Police Department will be notified. 

“We have escorts on campus who can help students, but oftentimes students aren’t aware of that service,” Tyler said. “The nice thing is students will be able to set those safety timers and do it themselves, so at least someone knows they are out walking.”

In addition to the introduction of the Rave Guardian app, UNI’s Department of Public Safety has been hard at work offering various programs aimed at creating a safer campus community. They offer Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) courses to help improve personal safety,  as well as Violent Incident Defense Strategies (VIDS) trainings which provide attendees strategies to assist in an event involving an armed and violent encounter. The next VIDS training will take place Thursday, April 13, 1-3 p.m. in Gilchrist Hall Room 009. 

The bicycle patrol units will also be riding around campus more often due to the warmer spring weather. 

“You’ll see more of a presence on campus just because it is getting nicer outside,” Tyler said. “We’re always out and about and patrolling, but we usually don’t have many problems, especially on the inner campus.”

UNI’s Department of Public Safety also hosts yearly safety walks in collaboration with Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG), the Student Life Division and Accessibility Services to see what areas of campus can be improved in regards to lighting, accessibility and overall safety.

For more information about the Department of Public Safety at UNI, visit