‘Virtual Escort’ Smartphone App to Help Protect UL Students


The Rave Guardian Campus Safety App is now available to University of Louisiana at Lafayette community, allowing users to create a virtual safety net of friends, family and University Police.

There’s a new smart phone app on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, available just in time for Mardi Gras.

UL’s Student Government Association bought a customized version of the Rave Guardian Campus Safety App that allows users to create a virtual safety net of friends, family and University Police.

“We wanted to make sure students feel safer on campus,” SGA President David Neef said. “The idea of having a guardian helps with this.”

U of LA LafayetteThe app is now available at no cost to all UL students and faculty members through the iPhone App Store. It will soon be available on Android phones.

SGA is paying $5,000 per year for the app through self-assessed student fees, Neef said. The university has a three-year contract with Rave Mobile Safety, the same company that provides UL’s emergency notification system.

A user can download the Web-based app onto his or her smart phone and create a profile that includes pertinent personal information, such as name, address and medical conditions. The user can also create a list of guardians who would be notified in certain circumstances.

“It’s a virtual escort,” said UL Police Capt. Charles Gisclair. “It’s like walking with somebody who’s not really there.”

Although the user’s guardian must also have the app on his or her smart phone, a generic, free version of the app is available to anyone, not just those with a university email address.

Students and faculty members can use the app to record information about their whereabouts when traveling alone on or off campus. If a user expects to be home by a certain time but does not deactivate a timer by that time, the app will automatically notify the designated guardian.

The guardian would be able to call the user to be sure he or she is OK. If the user cannot be reached, the app enables the guardian to immediately notify UL police.

Once the UL Police dispatcher receives the notification, police can access the user’s information, and the app will ping the phone to show police where it is located. The GPS information is updated every three minutes in the event of an emergency, so police can continue to track down the smart phone even if the user is not stationary.

The app is being introduced in part to fulfill UL President Joseph Savoie’s vision for protecting students even when they are off campus, according to Gisclair.

Students who are outside the campus, the city or even the state can use the app to ensure that somebody knows where they are and if something is not right.

“Be it male or female, students are out late in the evening on campus for several reasons,” Gisclair said. “But if they’re alone, this gives them somebody to watch over them.”

Gisclair said he did not expect to require additional staffing as a result of the app, and he said false notifications are rare with other universities who already have the app because of two warnings sent to the app user before a guardian or police are notified.

A panic button is available on the app for the user who finds himself or herself in a dangerous situation.

The app also provides a feature where a user can anonymously report anything suspicious as part of the university’s See Something, Say Something program. Police are able to correspond with the user to find out more information.

“When you think about our department, we have approximately 40 officers,” Gisclair said. “So you’re looking at 80 eyes versus the eyes of everybody on campus.”


Article & Video by: Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser

Posted on: February 27th, 2014



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