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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    SB Guardian watches over students

    Stony Brook University’s Police Department now has a new tool for helping to keep students, staff and faculty safe on its dark streets and nearly deserted parking lots during late nights: a mobile app called Rave Guardian.

    After the announcement of its launch in June, Rave Guardian, which is known by the name SB Guardian on campus, has finally been released to the public. The app has been touted as a “blue light in your pocket” — a reference to the more than 100 blue light phones scattered at locations all across campus, which provide immediate connections to university police in case of emergency. To operate a blue light phone, one need only wait to be connected to a police operator and then provide his or her name, location and the type of emergency he or she wishes to report so that an officer can be immediately dispatched.

    Asking basic questions such as these wastes precious time that a victim may not have. Through SB Guardian, university police aim to cut down on wasted time and provide more immediate aid in the case of an emergency. Users can register on the Department of Emergency Management’s website and create a brief profile that includes information such as a personal description and a photograph. They can also create more detailed profiles that list specific information such as their emergency contact information, allergies, special medications, vehicle type and class schedule. University police operators can then access these data with only a few clicks.

    Along with SB Alert, a system that notifies students of emergency situations via phone and text messages, SB Guardian forms just part of the safety network that is being built by the Department of Emergency Management. Both services are provided by the Massachusetts-based Rave Mobile Safety company.

    “We are the only SUNY school to utilize both the Alert and Guardian features offered by the Rave system,” said Lawrence Zacarese, the assistant chief of police and director of emergency management. “Stony Brook is always looking for new ways to improve safety on campus by leveraging technology that is familiar to the campus community.”

    Because the vast majority of students, faculty and staff have mobile phones, Zacarese said “SB Guardian was a logical choice to supplement the other safety programs we have on campus.”

    SB Guardian operates on two modes: panic call mode and precautionary timer mode. The panic call mode simply programs the app into a speed dial, allowing users to reach university police with just the push of a button. The user’s profile is then shown to police, and if the user’s phone has GPS capability, his or her location can also be sent to police.

    The precautionary timer setting allows users to set a timer that elapses the amount of time they believe it will take them to travel from one location to another on campus. If the user arrives safely and on time, he or she can deactivate the timer and police will never receive notification that a timer was set. Otherwise, if the user does not deactivate the timer, he or she will receive a text message three minutes before its expiration, followed by a phone call one minute prior to the timer’s expiration.

    Because of this, accidental activations sometimes occur. Though Zacarese noted that to date, no actual emergency activations have occurred, less than 10 “errant activations” have been caused by new members enrolling in the system and did not require further police action. However, Zacarese made clear that intentional abuse of the system for non-emergency situations would not be tolerated.

    “Any misuse of the system would be handled in the same manner as falsely pulling a fire alarm or prank calling 911 and could include judicial sanction or other administrative action,” Zacarese said. “I do not anticipate this type of behavior as being a persistent problem and would describe any potential abuse as more of the exception than the rule.”

    If the timer is still not deactivated, the phone automatically transmits a panic call to the police. If the user is ever forced to deactivate his or her timer, a false deactivation code one number higher than his or her PIN can be entered, causing SB Guardian to appear to turn off normally while simultaneously alerting the police.

    Registration for the mobile app is strictly voluntary, but Zacarese says that about 1,500 members of the campus community are currently enrolled. He hopes to achieve a 25 percent enrollment of all eligible students, faculty and staff — approximately 10,000 registrants — by June 2012. Both he and the rest of the university police department are taking great strides to promote the app through videos, presentations and press releases.

    “The university police department presented at all of the new student and transfer orientations this summer, and our new university police and emergency management video, which highlights the features of SB Guardian, will be shown to all of the 101 classes this fall,” Zacarese said.

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