The goal of the new app is to consolidate the public safety functions under one vendor and use a more technologically-advanced program.
“It's got a few more bells and whistles and things that help keep students safe,” Campus Safety and Police Chief Joe LeMire said.
It launched on March 28 and LeMire said this is because they were waiting on both Elon’s main campus and law school to return from spring break. This launch date gives Campus Safety and Police the rest of the semester to get members of the community signed up, work out any bugs or issues with the technology and promote the new program to prospective students. The program was also one LeMire used when he worked at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“It was an area that I was very familiar with technology wise,” LeMire said.
The new vendor is also approximately $2,500 cheaper than the old vendor. LiveSafe and the OmniAlert E-Alert system cost almost $16,000 before, and Rave Mobile Safety costs just under $14,000.
With the new app, Rave Guardian, students can discreetly contact Campus Safety and Police while also choosing to provide their GPS location, receive targeted mobile notifications and wellness checks as well as access phone numbers for local first responders and campus services.
There’s also a place to submit anonymous tips and resources related to counseling, sexual assault and harassment. It provides two-way communication so users can message safety officials through text or email.
Rave Guardian has a 24-hour dispatch, so if the dispatch were to be overrun with phone calls during an emergency, LeMire and other officers could call a number and still get the message out.
“That phone call that comes into Campus Safety and Police here almost operates a little bit like a 911 call,” LeMire said. “Because on our side, it'll give us the profile of the person calling and give us a GPS location. It gives us a number of pieces of information that other vendors don't provide.”
Rave Mobile Safety is used by schools like Duke University, University of Maryland and New York University, as well as by five of the eight Ivy League universities. The company was founded in 2004 and is based out of Framingham, Massachusetts.
The change in emergency security mobile apps also comes with a change to the E-Alert system. All students, faculty and staff have been automatically added to the new system, which LeMire said is more of an opt-out system. Over 93% of students, faculty and staff have a new phone number in the system according to LeMire, but he wants to see that number reach 100%.
“We're trying to push it because I saw overnight now I think we've had probably about 60 people download the Guardian app,” LeMire said. “So the app is only as good as the people that download it.”
Students can update their contact information in their OnTrack user file. Having a current phone number and email address in the system allows Campus Safety and Police to reach people if necessary.
Once students are in the system, they can confirm current information and add other emails or cell phone contacts. Students’ personal information will not be released and their information will only be used to send them notifications they’ve opted into. Those available groups are weather alerts, emergency notifications including weather alerts and Study USA program location-specific alerts.
Previously, the LiveSafe mobile app and the E-Alert system were separate entities. This was because emergency alert systems were developed before safety app systems were, according to LeMire. Adopted in 2015, LiveSafe allowed community members to anonymously share information through text, photos or videos. App users could also receive messages broadcast by Campus Safety and Police and use the SafeWalk feature that allowed others to “virtually escort” them by tracking their location on a map.
A similar feature is available on the Rave Guardian app. A virtual timer on the app allows someone to choose their starting location and destination and set a timer for approximately how long it should take them to get there. That information is shared with a guardian of choice and can even be a figure off-campus like a parent. Campus Safety and Police can also be an official or unofficial guardian, but they are only notified at the end if your timer expires. Users get one minute after the timer expires to check in with their guardian, add more time or disengage the timer.
“We're only notified when we get to a point of, ‘Hey, you're not disengaging from your time or maybe there's something wrong we need to check on,’” LeMire said.
The previous E-Alert system texted and emailed students important information about emergencies, class cancellations and severe weather updates. It was used as the primary source for emergency updates.
The new system builds upon the old one — still sending text messages and emails to students, but also now calling too. It also incorporates the Rave Guardian mobile app and supports two-way communication between its users and safety resources.
Campus Safety and Police is offering training to members of the Elon community who would like to familiarize themselves with the new software. Those interested can contact email@example.com or LeMire at 336-278-5555.