Campus Report

Smartphone app boosts campus security

Office of Communications
March 18, 2016

A free smartphone app now allows the Kenyon community to alert Campus Safety about personal emergencies and to anonymously notify the safety office about suspicious or dangerous activity.

The Rave Guardian app complements the blue-light emergency phones now available on posts around campus, Director of Campus Safety Robert Hooper said. Students are not required to use the app, he said, but, “Students are basically carrying around an emergency phone with them, all the time.”

“The more people who use it, the safer we are,” said Ronald Griggs, vice president for library and information services. “We thought this would be an easy and inexpensive way to greatly increase our safety profile.”

Campus Safety already monitors a number of security systems across campus. One such system, for example, reveals when students use their identification cards to enter a building, and now Rave Guardian can confirm that a student’s smartphone is located within that building.

Officers will still physically look for a student if there was a concern about safety, Hooper said. “If there is a situation and the student is not able to talk, with Rave Guardian we will at least have the location to deploy the officers,” he said.

Twelve of the blue-light emergency phones were placed on campus in 1988; now there are 27. But most of the situations that officers respond to are inside residence halls. No one has used a security phone for an emergency alert in 10 years, Hooper said.

“We think this is a better system because almost all of the students have their own phone, and a high majority of students have smartphones. This is a more dependable system,” he said.

The app will allow students to:

  • Press one button to call Campus Safety officers or call 911.
  • Create a network of friends and family to message quickly in case of an emergency or a risky situation.
  • Set a safety timer for walking alone or off campus (the app measures time from the start of a walk to an expected arrival location, and if a user doesn’t turn off the timer upon arrival, officers are alerted).
  • Send anonymous information and photos to Campus Safety if a user witnesses a crime or suspicious activity.

“The anonymous tip part of this could be very valuable,” Hooper said. “If a student sees vandalism and doesn’t want to get involved, they can alert us and send a picture. We’ll now have more eyes out there watching, and we can be anywhere on campus in under two minutes.”

If students do not download and register a profile within the app, they cannot send eyewitness alerts, Hooper said. But students can adjust the app’s settings to fit their preference for sharing information. They can, for example, turn off the location service and just use the app as a quick way to call 911.

“You can be out on the bike path or on the highway and use this app,” Griggs said. “There are a lot of advantages to using it even off campus. Your car might break down by the side of the road. This app is important for an institution in a rural environment.”

Rave Guardian works on the iPhone and Android operating systems. Users are associated with a given public safety organization based on the school email address they provide during Rave Guardian registration. Users can add details to their profile — such as medical conditions or a photo.

Rave Guardian works with the Smart911 national database that collects registrant safety profiles. If a Rave Guardian user places a 911 call, their call is routed to a 911 call center and the caller’s Rave Guardian profile is displayed to the 911 telecommunicator handing their call.

Kenyon has been placing antennas inside campus buildings to boost cellphone coverage across campus. Three more academic buildings will get antennas over spring break, Griggs said.