ISUPD replaces Guardian with new safety resource app, Iowa State Safe


Dylan Mescher

Iowa State Daily Managing Editor Amber Mohmand using the Iowa State Safe app.

Mackenzie Bodell, Senior Reporter

Walking back home from the library can be daunting, especially late at night. For those who feel uneasy, they could rely on the several telephones scattered across campus, known as BlueLight phones. However, as time continues and technology advances, the BlueLight phones become a thing of the past.

As the use of BlueLight phones declined, so did infrastructure. It was clear that ISU needed a new alternative: Iowa State Safe, an app available for students to download onto their phones.

“It would take millions of dollars for us to replace them,” ISUPD Chief Michael Newton said. “So let’s invest that money […] into technology, and then that’s when the Iowa State Safe idea came out.”

Before the new app, students were pointed toward the Guardian app for campus safety, especially when they needed someone to watch them walk home. Now, Iowa State Safe brings in a few key features of the new app including several different walk-home options.

With Iowa State Safe, students now have several options for getting home safely, said Nicholas Swanson, director of enterprise and emergency management planning. 

One of the options has no police involvement. Students who feel unsafe while walking home can have a friend watch their location all the way to their final destination. Another option is to have ISUPD watch their location. The virtual walk-home option allows students to send their location straight to ISUPD. 

The final option is the Mobile BlueLight option. 

Once a student clicks on the blue light icon, their GPS location is sent down to ISUPD, where an officer can see their location on the map. ISUPD will call the student and, if needed, send an officer out to their location.

“The big piece that we’re trying to encourage people is using Iowa State safe for Safe Ride,” said Swanson. “It will get you faster service.” 

Swanson, who has been with the department for 10 months, was the point person for creating Iowa State Safe. Looking into the future, he will be working with several other department members as the app continues to develop as students start to use it. 

As students have shifted to using Iowa State Safe for Safe Ride, specifically, some have complained about transitioning over. 

“What I liked better about the other app is that it gave you like an updated time like when it’ll be there and the new one doesn’t have that,” said Michelle Cox, a freshman in human development and family studies. “I would feel more comfortable if it did.”

The Safe Ride button, which allows students to request a ride home, becomes available from 6 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

The app also includes several other useful features. 

  • Bus routes are available at all times, including for the Midnight Express. 
  • Students have access to active shooter plans and procedures. 
  • The Military Affiliated Students Center has a button.
  • A residence section where work orders can be submitted.

Students can also access student health resources through the app and even schedule appointments. 

ISUPD’s goal for building this new app was to allow students easier access to resources. 

“We just want this to be a resource that you can stay safe on campus, and you can get the resources you need when you need them,” Swanson said.

It took roughly three months to get the app up and running. The department went to a vendor, App Armor, which Newton has been interested in for a while. 

The ISUPD worked with the chief’s student advisory board to ensure the smoothest running of the app for students. The student advisory board is made up of about 20 people. 

These students’ feedback has helped the department clarify language and figure out new ways to promote the app. 

“The Student Advisory Board was giving ideas of what students want,” Newton said. “They’re looking for more ways to stay safe, and while an app isn’t going to keep you safe, there’s functionality here so that you can help educate yourself about being safe.”

Jacob Ludwig, student body president, is part of the chief’s student advisory board. 

“A few members of student government were invited to go see a backdoor demo of the app and provide some feedback, and we got to see how the app ran,” Ludwig said. 

Newton did a podcast with Student Government discussing several different topics for students who had any additional questions about Iowa State Safe. Ludwig wants to encourage students to join the student advisory board. Interested students can email him at [email protected] for more information. 

“There are all kinds of amazing conversations that we’ve been able to have over the years,” Ludwig said. 

ISUPD encourages students to download the app and play around to get used to its structure and functionality. 

Iowa State Safe is available for both iOS and Android platforms.