Wildfire is an app for IOS and Android phones that acts as a place for students to talk to one another and to share alerts. The types of alerts include, safety, protest and class cancelations, but they even include celebrity sightings. The app also includes a discussion board for students to talk about things that don’t require an alert.
According to the Wildfire website, “Wildfire is a mobile app that keeps you informed of important events happening nearby and makes it easy to spread the word quickly when something significant happens.”
Students can ask each other questions or talk about life on campus. This app shares similarities with the “Jackalert” system used on campus. The difference is that alerts on Wildfire are made by the students, not UPD.
Many students found out about Wildfire through an email on their SFA Outlook accounts.
“I found out about the app through an email I received from SFA directly,” Dominque Hanes, a graduate student and mass communication major from Dallas said. “But, I actually started using it today because of my best friend and roommate who looked at the app and saw the notifications that we could use for safety and thought it was interesting.”
Hanes says the app reminds her of other anonymous posting apps, such as Yik Yak and Twitter.
“It can allow people to communicate with one another but can also provide constant updates on safety,” Hanes said.
Hanes also said she likes the app and can see herself using it often.
Temi Odunga, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Lufkin, thought the app was intriguing after he got the email about it and downloaded it.
“It seems like a good idea as long as spam is regulated,” Odunga said when asked if he thought the app could improve the safety of the campus.
A feature of the Wildfire app is to be able to post anonymously. This allows for anyone to post under any name.
“I don’t see how anonymity would be harmful,” Odunga said, “I think as long as the alerts aren’t abused, then it can be helpful to students.”
While the alerts are not curated by UPD, it allows the students to share their firsthand accounts of something happening. Last week for example, a student alerted others about a group of people yelling obscenities at students near the campus main entrance.
However, this alert system, which alerts every SFA student using Wildfire, can be misused easily. Moderating content is not done by an administrator or any central person. For example, the most recent alert is not a safety concern or news happening on campus, it is a student advertising a discount online store.
According to the Wildfire website, “We empower users to moderate the community. From the app, you can report a post or comment if you believe it is inappropriate and does not belong on Wildfire.”
However, alerts are supposed to be monitored by the Wildfire moderation team before it is sent out.
Although Wildfire says it is not meant to replace 911, it can still be useful by providing a place where students can talk to each other and, most importantly, alert each other of problems on campus.
As Wildfire continues to grow at SFA, so will its usefulness to help students find a friend or to be aware of a situation.