DCU to provide app to students and staff to boost campus safety

University says service, which tracks users’ location, does not compromise privacy

A new safety app is being made available to students and staff at Dublin City University. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A new safety app is being made available to students and staff at Dublin City University. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Dublin City University is to provide around-the-clock emergency supports to staff and students through a new safety app, which links users with the college’s emergency response team.

The SafeZone app is being made freely available to DCU students and staff – almost 19,000 people – across its Glasnevin, St Patrick’s and All Hallows campuses.

The university said it was a “proactive” move and was not in response to any increase in assaults, theft or incidents on campus.

The app provides three buttons: emergency, first aid and help. It also allows the user to dial the emergency services.

“We were looking for a way to communicate with students and staff in a quick and easy way,” said DCU’s chief operations officer Declan Raftery. “We wanted a way that everybody could have it and everyone has a mobile phone now, so it made sense.”

The technology was provided by Australian firm Critical Arc and has been used in many universities in the UK and Australia.

The app works on a “check-in, check-out” basis. When checked in, the DCU security team knows a user’s exact location. Users are automatically checked out when they go outside the campus.

Privacy concern

Raftery insisted it will not affect the privacy of students or staff. As the system is privacy-protected, a user’s location is not shared, unless the user activates an alert for help within designated zones.

Users may input their name, student or staff ID, medical condition and bicycle serial number. When a user activates an emergency response, their location and ID is sent to DCU security.

The app may also be used by the university’s clubs and societies, who go on trips abroad. When activated, it will ring the emergency services in the user’s location. DCU security will also be alerted.

DCU students’ union welcomes the implementation of the app, especially following the recent assault of its student president Niall Behan. He was struck with a bat during an attempted mugging while walking home from DCU last month.

“There can never be enough safety measures on a campus with so many people and it makes it so much easier, especially through your phone,” said Podge Henry, students’ union vice president for welfare and equality. “There have been one or two instances this year already that I’ve been made aware of, luckily they weren’t severe.”

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said staff and student safety was of the “utmost importance” and the new technology would enhance this.

“DCU is now a multi-campus environment and, by deploying SafeZone in conjunction with our existing campus emergency response team, it will enable us to respond even more effectively and efficiently to students and staff who may need emergency support.”