Safety app gets mixed reception at MRU
Pamela Di Pinto
Need help in an emergency? Not sure where to turn?
Students, staff and faculty at Mount Royal University can now connect with security services through a new safety app, Guardly, which transforms smartphones into on-campus emergency phones.
“What we wanted to do was improve upon the infrastructure that’s already at universities and extend it to mobile,” said Josh Sookman, Guardly Corp CEO.
Guardly, based in Toronto, first launched the app for public use in April last year to help reduce the amount of time it takes for responders — whether that be local authorities, campus security, or users’ own safety groups — to arrive at an emergency scene.
“We looked at a number of different places, but university campuses really stood out to us because we realized what we created was essentially taking the functionality of those emergency posts and putting it onto a mobile phone,” Sookman said.
The newly modified app, designed exclusively for on-campus use, is the first of its kind in Canada, say company reps. It was made available to 67 colleges and universities nation-wide on Jan. 19.
After downloading Guardly, users must register with a school-issued email address. In the case of an on-campus emergency, they can launch the app to be connected to security by phone.
Guardly will not connect users to security while off-campus. Instead, they can choose to be connected to personalized safety groups, or 911 in major emergencies.
So far, Sookman said Guardly has received a positive response from post-secondary students and campus security officers alike.
However, based on the research Mount Royal’s security services conducted, security manager Terrance Zeniuk said security is “not prepared at this time to endorse it.”
“The app appears to be a bit of Russian roulette in terms of getting emergency assistance,” Zeniuk said, explaining it does not appear to work with a “great deal of accuracy.”
Zeniuk said calling security directly would be just as fast, if not faster, than using the Guardly app.
“My advice to students, if security is a concern, is to program the MRU emergency services number into your cell phone and also have 911 handy,” he said. “That is probably your best approach.”
Zeniuk added the app does not inform security of users’ locations, while using one of the emergency phones on campus will.
Sookman said students may not always know where to find an emergency phone. He maintains using an app to contact security is easier and more accessible given that many people now use smartphones.
Julia Koziell, a third-year MRU student, said she thinks it’s a good idea.
“You’d never even think of it — to program that number (campus security) in your phone,” she said.
Others, like third-year communication student Haleigh Packer, tend to agree with Zeniuk.
“A couple of minutes could be detrimental, depending on how serious the situation is,” Packer said. “So, why do you need an app to report that when dialing is faster?”
Either way, both Sookman and Zeniuk said the end goal is to create a safe community on campus.
“If you take any small town, it isn’t just the police that keep it safe,” Zeniuk said. “It’s everyone working collectively together, taking pride in the institution, taking pride in calling this place ours, and caring for one another.
“That’s what will keep Mount Royal University safe.”
Guardly is available as a free download on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone devices.
In the event of an on-campus emergency, security can be reached by calling 403-440-5900.