Phone App Looks to Improve Student Safety

Lincoln, Neb.-- In the event of an attack, some University of Nebraska at Lincoln students said they'd barely think about using the blue light emergency poles placed around campus.

Some said they'd probably run and try to use their cell phone.

And that's exactly why student leaders are looking at a smart phone application that more than 30 other universities are looking at too, an app called Lifeline Response.

"Having an app that's centered towards students safety and can have at their disposal anywhere was something that we liked," Kevin Knudson, an UNL student senator said.

The application has two modes. The first mode allows the user to set a timer as they travel from one destination to another. If the user doesn't deactivate the app by the time they get home, the app will remind the user to deactivate it.

If it doesn't get deactivated, local authorities are called to respond.

The second mode has the user keep their finger touching the screen, and if the finger slips off for any reason, the user has a finite amount of time to enter a deactivation code.

If they don't, a message is sent to local authorities to respond.

The phone also uses an advanced GPS tracking system to follow the phone once it has alarmed.

"We've got to take a realistic approach to this," Peter Cahill, the app's founder, said.

"Yes, it's the attacker's fault that they're doing these horrible things, but we've got to at least do our best to prevent these things from happening."

Cahill said the motivation to create this app came from one of his own family members being attacked years ago.

Stephanie Thomsen, a UNL sophomore, said she barely notices the blue light poles and wouldn't think about using it in the event of an emergency.

"I think [the app is] a lot more convenient for everyone," Thomsen said.

"Our first instinct wouldn't be to run over to [the poles] and push the button."

Knudson said the blue light poles aren't going anywhere right now, but that if they were phased out in the future, it would cost about the same amount of money to maintain the application as it does to maintain the light poles.

Knudson said the poles are becoming somewhat obsolete.

"It's not just strictly on campus that [the app] will benefit," Knudson said, "so it will kind of increase the amount, increase the area that students will be kept safe by the university."

The university plans to test the app this spring with about 200 UNL students from various demographics including males, females, those that live on campus and those that live off.

If implemented, the cost would be about $3 per student, a price they would probably pay for through a kind of student fee, according to Knudson.

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