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The Blue & Gray Press | October 20, 2017

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Campus-wide safety app RAVE Guardian

Campus-wide safety app RAVE Guardian

By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH

The walk on College Avenue after night classes may become a little
less anxiety-prone with a guardian a click away.

“RAVE Guardian,” a campus safety app that allows students to connect
more quickly to University Police or to friends and family they
designate as “guardians,” is now available to University of Mary
Washington students.

On Aug. 13, through email, the University announced the app and that
it can be downloaded through Apple’s app store and Google Play.
However, the app for Windows phones is currently still in production.

The app has three buttons on its main page. The “Safety Timer,” which
allows a user to write down a specific amount of time he or she will
be out, the “Guardians,” where the user can enter their friend and
family contact information, and “Emergency,” where users can contact
the UMW police and 911.

When the period of time runs out, the “guardian” sends an alert to the
user asking if they are OK. If the user does not respond, the
“guardian” can then contact the police or call 911.

The student chooses a “guardian” by adding their friend or someone
they trust’s phone number or contact information.

Lastly, the app’s emergency button gives the user three options. The
first option calls UMW Police for on-campus emergencies, the second
allows students to send anonymous tips and photos to UMW Police
through text and the last allows students to call 911.

According to UMW Chief of Police Mike Hall, the SGA president proposed
the idea of a campus-wide safety app during a meeting with
representatives from the campus and President Rick Hurley. The app
they proposed was called LiveSafe, created in 2013 by a Virginia Tech
student injured during the mass shooting in 2007.

The administration was in favor of the idea, but installing the app
would cost $10,000, a hefty price tag. Consequently, Ruth Lovelace,
director of emergency management and safety, found RAVE Guardian,
which offers the same options and protection as LiveSafe at a less
expensive price.

RAVE Guardian was officially installed in July, but the school tested
it and made it available to students in August. The safety app is
meant to offer a sense of security and a very real means of assistance
during an emergency, or the threat of an emergency, according to Hall.

“[RAVE Guardian] gives students and community another tool to make
them feel comfortable, that’s tangible, close to them,” Hall said.

According to Hall, most students have a smartphone and can download
the app, and it can be accessible at a click of a button, especially
when the “Blue Light” emergency system, a series of poles on College
Avenue that contact the police when activated, is out of reach.

The app is also available to students who need emergency help due to a
medical condition.

“It takes one second,” Hall said about hitting one of the options on
the app, “and bam, I’m connected with the Mary Washington community.”

Even if a student sends a safety timer to his or her “guardian” and
the student’s phone dies while he or she is out, the “guardian” can
still get a notification that the time has passed and contact the
police if the student does not respond.

Hall reassured students who believe the app, because it has access to
the user’s contacts and can show UMW Police the user’s location, is an
invasion of their privacy.

“[Students can think] Big Brother is watching me. You control Big
Brother as much or as little as you want,” Hall said.

This fall, UMW Police installed a computer aided dispatch system. The
system will allow mobile data usage in patrol vehicles, meaning
laptops will be installed in the vehicles and vehicles can track
activity online. That feature is still in production.

The UMW Police also had additional training in sexual assault,
including sensitivity training, and added two new golf carts. The
police escort system, which escorts students to housing or classes, is
also available.

Jade Steward, junior English major, believes the app will make the
school safer overtime.

“Ultimately I think it will help if everyone uses it. [It] could be a
self-fulfilling prophecy because [the school] will be safer because
everyone is using [the app],” Steward said.

Similarly, junior English major Miranda Schnakenberg, who has the app
herself, believes it provides a safe option for students who need
help.

“[The Guardian is] a great way to have people know where they are,”
Schnakenberg said.

Some students, however, such as Sasha Zabela, sophomore English major,
are concerned that the app rewards students who install it, but leaves
limited incentives for students who do not have the app.

“[RAVE Guardian] brings security to people who are concerned about
safety. [It] doesn’t help people who aren’t responsible,” Zabela said.

Concerned or not, UMW is making safety on campus a serious matter and
technology such as RAVE Guardian is easily accessible and easy to use.

Comments

  1. Ruth Lovelace

    Well written article on our new personal safety app. The app was evaluated and although cost was considered Guardian was a better fit for our community.