Although most college campuses have quieted down for summer break, it’s never too early to start planning for the start of fall semester. For many students, the start of the fall semester might be their first college semester ever and arguably the prime time for campus safety officials to leave a lasting impression over the next four years. One way campus safety officials can accomplish this is by using a safety app to help students stay connected with the right resources.
New Communication for a New Generation
Cellphones have improved campus safety over the years, allowing students to take safety into their own hands by checking in with friends and family as they cross campus at an odd hour or calling campus security when something happens. A spike in safety apps is boosting this approach to campus safety, with some apps offering features as simple as a button to contact campus police or others with more advanced features such as the capability to send campus police your personal information, class schedule, and GPS location.
Campuses are adapting to using safety apps following demand from younger generations. Students today prefer closed messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp, with Generation Z students being three times more likely to open a chat message through a push notification. Yet, in a recent survey of higher education institutions, only 38% of respondents offer a mobile safety app for their campus communities. The lack of institution-backed app adoption on campus shows the opportunity for colleges to implement innovative technology to better connect with students.
Here are seven things to look for in a campus personal safety app.
1. Integration with mass notification: If your campus is already using a mass notification system, make sure it can integrate with your safety app. This will allow you to easily authenticate app users who are already connected within your mass notification system and access students’ most up-to-date contact information.
2. Content portal: See if the app you’re looking into can link to emergency plans. If an event occurs such as a tornado, hurricane, or active shooter alert, you’ll want to make sure that your campus community can make it to the properly designated building.
3. Call directory: Does the app you’re looking at have a call directory? Enabling students and staff to easily find assistance and resources can be accomplished through a call directory of important numbers that can be updated and added to in real time.
4. Routable chats: See if your app has a routable chat system so that all of the right people are involved at the right time. Look for two-way communications that can be routed to different departments to ensure they’re only seen by the appropriate officials. In addition, departments should be able to enable custom auto-responses when their offices are closed.
5. Push notifications: Find out if your safety app offers push notifications. Alongside SMS text and email capabilities, push notifications allow schools to provide messages to students and staff even without cell service and capture more attention.
6. App customization: Can you quickly customize the app without a huge hassle? Make sure your safety app can be customized in real time to create a user experience that will drive more interaction with their community.
7. Emergency call button: Can your students tap one button to call 9-1-1 and notify campus safety at the same time? This could be essential to making sure that help arrives swiftly. Even when they dial 9-1-1 from the app, the school is notified through the incident management console.
Make sure the new campus personal safety app your choose for your institution ensures that all tools, from two-way texting features to content directories with information such as specific safety procedures, are united in a single application. With one-app access to campus communication tools, resources and key contacts, colleges don’t have to rely on outdated communication methods to interact and engage with students.
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