Blue Light Emergency Phones at CMU used 85 times since 2012


Installed around campus more than 20 years ago, Blue Light Emergency Phone usage has dwindled since its inception to just 85 calls since 2012. 

But they aren't going anywhere any time soon said Police Lt. Cameron Wassman, who believes them to be a valuable communication tool for when someone is found in a "bad spot" on campus.

“Overall they are not used that often at all," Wassman said. "The legitimate use is half a dozen times a year, for the whole system.” 

When the call button is pressed at any of the 28 Blue Light locations, it will be directed to the campus police dispatch system.


“The Blue Lights are in very conspicuous areas, usually with a light pole or a streetlight right there,” Wassman said. "The one time one of those is used for somebody who is being followed, for someone who is the victim of a crime, or anything like that, the whole system pays for itself ten times over.”

The Blue Lights are bought from Pennsylvania based electronics company, Gai-Tronics, and have all been updated consistently over the years. The most recent Blue Light additions were added by the lacrosse and soccer fields on the south end of campus, as well as by the research facilities off of Dennison Road. These locations have not been added to the official CMU Blue Light map yet.

Wassman said each Blue Light costs $1,000 to install and $10 to $15 each per month to run. While safety apps have added CMU to their network, Wassman does not endorse any apps in the place of the Blue Light phones.

“The problem is not everybody has a smartphone,” Wassman said. “There are still people who don’t have that technology. Depending on the situation, you may not be in a position to be able to find your phone, open the app, push the button, even if it is that simple, to push the button.”

In an effort to ensue the safety of students, a Blue Light App as added CMU to their network. The app, however, is not affiliated with CMU.

Lauren Wilbanks, director of communications at BlueLight app, said it is not just for the use of a student population, but the general public and their safety.

“If you call 911 from your cell phone it may not get routed to the right place, but they also may not know where you are,” Wilbanks said. “Seventy percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones, but actually calling from a cell phone is significantly worse than calling from a landline.”

Wilbanks said  finding location based on cell phone calls is very difficult, as dispatchers try to figure out location based on triangulating the cell phone tower a phone is using, which can be extremely inefficient and can be off by about 1,000 feet.

“What our app is doing is making sure it gets routed to the right place, so off campus (calls get) routed to 911,” Wilbanks said. “We can also use location data from GPS, which is much more accurate - within 60 feet, generally outdoors - to give (emergency respondents) a more accurate idea of where you are.”

While the app can track and dispatch to local police from any location, it is only able to dispatch to university police in their network. On campuses where the app is not active, it will route to a public safety center in the area.

The app costs $9.99 per year when registering with a university email. The price is $19.99 for a regular yearly subscription.

For information on CMU’s Blue Light Emergency Phones, visit The Blue Light app can be downloaded through