Security pushes ‘virtual escort’

By on September 15, 2010

Rave Guardian, a service piloted last spring, has gone live as of this semester, providing all members of the campus community with a direct line to security assistance in a moment’s notice.

The service is currently optional and has two features: the virtual campus escort and the panic security call.

The escort piece includes a number to call that connects to a timer. With this, the user would estimate how long they would be travelling from their point of departure to their point of destination. It also prompts input of additional information such as what the user is wearing, height, weight and medical history. The panic security call is a one button dial pre-programmed by the user to connect directly with a security dispatcher on campus.

John Twining, previously the chief of security, was promoted to the new position of director of emergency management last June in addition to serving as the deputy chief of security.

As director of emergency management, Twining has revamped Quinnipiac’s Crisis Management team and response procedures. Twining and Jim Trella, director of information technology at Quinnipiac for 12 years, brought the Rave Guardian application to campus.

“It’s an electronic escort in your pocket, like having a blue light in your pocket,” Trella said.

The security dispatcher has a computer screen with Rave Guardian on it. When the timer is used, the current number of people using the service will increase on the screen.

There is a three minute warning until the timer expires, and another warning at one minute. If the timer has not yet been deactivated, the user will receive a text message reminding them to cancel the connection if they have reached their destination.

“If you set a timer and you’re on your way back to wherever you were going and suddenly you decide I need help right now, push your panic button,” Twining said. The panic button will override your timer and send in an alarm right away.”

When the panic button is dialed or the timer times out, an alarm goes to the dispatcher board. The picture and message provided by the user pops up and it becomes an active case. Once a case becomes active, the information the user gave to security during registration becomes available on the screen.

The dispatchers are trained to first contact the user to ensure they did not simply forget they were signed into the program. If there is no answer or it goes to voicemail, the response efforts are increased.

“We’d rather check twice and be certain there wasn’t anything wrong,” Twining said. “If someone else answers the phone, we’ll ask questions only you know the answer to, like what’s your pin? If they don’t know we’ll ramp our response even higher.”

If the phone has a GPS device installed, it also gives the dispatcher precise information of where the user is and has gone. A GPS device is not necessary for installation of the program, but it is beneficial.

“It’ll work anywhere you can get cell phone service. Obviously we can’t do anything if it’s out of our jurisdiction, but we will do all we possibly can do,” Twining said. “Some buildings it doesn’t work all the time in, and altitude-wise it won’t tell us where you are. In the Crescent with eight stories, you could be anywhere from the bottom to the top floor, but we’re going to have a pretty good idea of where you are.”

The Rave Guardian program was developed by Rave Wireless, and is something Twining and Trella thought would be valuable to the student body. The program is a service provided by the university, free to the students, and can be used countless times in a day.

“That product is so robust and trustworthy, we haven’t had to do anything with it since then,” Trella said.

Since then, they have introduced the program to the University of Connecticut and Connecticut College and both have adopted use of the program on their campuses.

In winter of 2009, Quinnipiac’s security department partnered with the Information Technology department to bring this new application to campus. Rave Guardian was piloted in spring of 2010 with a small group of 40 random members. Happy with the results, Twining and Trella decided to implement the program in the following semester.

“The comments people listed were mostly big brother’s watching again, but that was about the only negative we saw,” Twining said. “We don’t care what you’re doing as long as you’re safe.”

Freshman Stephen Kuchinski has heard of the program and believes it could be useful for students unsure of themselves, but does not believe he would ever use it.

“I trust myself enough to control myself with what I’m doing throughout the night,” Kuchinski said.

“The guys are all big and tough, they’re never going to call for an escort,” Twining said. “And women, they don’t like people to think they’re afraid to go somewhere. So with this application, you don’t have to tell anyone. You can just sit there and set you’re timer and you’re all set to go.”

Freshman Lola Ogunjobi heard about the program in a meeting with her Resident Assistant, and she believes it will be a beneficial program for students.

“Some people are uncomfortable being by themselves,” Ogunjobi said.

Because the program has only been live since the start of the semester, it is not yet determined if the program has been successful. They are working with the Office of Residential Life to set up a registration campaign to take place during this semester.

“It’s had its bugs, but they’ve been worked out so far,” Twining said. “We’ve tested it extensively.”

“We support it. It’s from the same company that gives us the Broadcast Alert that’s been rock solid and we stand behind their products,” Trella said.

In addition to the registration campaign, students can find more information on the program on the QU mobile website and the Rave Guardian Facebook group. Through the group, members can find information about how to register for the program, how the program works and what it does.

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About Meghan Parmentier

Senior Managing Editor
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Year: 2012
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