By Nicole Skripkariuk
Students will soon be able to access Ryerson’s security services from anywhere with the touch of their smartphone or tablet.
The university’s security and emergency services team is in the midst of launching a social media platform and mobile safety app they hope will be ready by the end of the semester.
“We hope to expand the knowledge base of our community on our services and offer helpful tools to be safe,” said Tanya Fermin-Poppleton, manager of security and emergency services.
Information on campus safety will be available through Facebook and Twitter. The app will include existing information from the security and emergency services site and offer new features, such as a communications button to contact security and a map of the Walk Safe program boundaries on campus.
The Digital Media Zone is partnering on the project and the app is almost ready to be released. The recent initiative is part of Ryerson’s efforts to increase accessibility to information on security and connect students to safety services at their convenience.
“It’s about quality of information and timeliness of information,” said president Sheldon Levy.
Ryerson’s safety app follows the launch of Safe Campus, an app that assists campus security in decreasing incident response times during emergencies. Safe Campus will provide one-touch access to security services from anywhere on campus allowing users to communicate with security by phone or text message. Its new indoor positioning technology (IPS) provides campus security with the building name, floor, and room number of a caller in less than five seconds.
Toronto-based Guardly Corp. issued the free app last year to 67 Canadian universities, including Ryerson. Students and faculty can download the app using a campus-registered email address.
But Fermin-Poppleton said Ryerson is not working with Guardly Corp. on its project.
“The app that is launched for Ryerson security and emergency services will be customized for our community use focused on Ryerson’s services.”
In February, York University launched a similar safety app to improve its service delivery. Safety initiatives co-ordinator Elize Ceschia said “the app is intended as an informational tool – allowing students, faculty, and staff to access safety related resources on campus.”
York’s app connects users to resources such as maps, goSAFE and off-campus shuttle information, and the Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line. It allows users to make direct calls to campus security and 911.
The app includes a flashlight and photo feature for users to take pictures and report safety concerns on campus. It’s also armed with a loud alarm users can activate in times of distress.
The free app was a collaborative effort between students and faculty. It’s part of a broader York University campaign called Safer Together. Ceschia says the overall response from students is positive. So far, there have been 8,755 downloads of the app.
“The use of technology is becoming more prevalent in every aspect of daily activity – from driving your car, to brewing your cup of coffee and managing finances. The use of technology in campus security is no different,” said Ceschia.
Ryerson instructor Jaigris Hodson is the social media director at GCI Canada, a public relations and communications company specializing in social media. She acknowledged the immediacy of social media, but also stressed that conventional methods of distributing information, such as non-electronic notices and news alerts, still play a role in making information accessible.
“Twitter has been a great way for students to get information about Ryerson,” said Hodson. “In fact, breaking news often is heard first on a social network like Twitter and spreads more quickly there. That being said, social media outreach should always be combined with more conventional information distribution so everyone can have access to it.”
“Social media is a great way to connect with most students and campus community. It gives variety,” said Fermin-Poppleton. “We are always looking at expanding awareness of our services.”
Walk. Bike. Fight.
The following is a rundown of some services currently offered by Ryerson Security and Emergency Services. These services continue to play a vital role in preserving campus safety, even in an era of digital communication.
Walk Safe Program
Security officers are ready to escort you to any location on campus, plus the Dundas subway and many off-campus parking lots. The service is available 24 hours a day by calling security at 979-5040 or pressing the yellow button on campus payphones. For external phones, dial ext. 5040. It’s an excellent option for excursions on campus following a late-night cram session at the library or celebratory drinks at the Ram in the Rye.
Bike Patrol Unit
Watch for security officers donning high-visibility uniforms and helmets while cycling around campus on mountain bikes suitable for patrolling the urban streets. Officers assigned to the Bike Patrol Unit receive training in traffic safety, emergency handling skills, and bike patrol tactics. BPU officers help reduce incident response times day and night. These eco-conscious officers have been patrolling the campus since 1994.
R.A.D. Self-Defence Classes
Ryerson’s security team offers free self-defence classes for men and women:
Rape Aggression Defence for Women – provides practical skills and tactics aimed at threat avoidance and assault resistance.
Resisting Aggression with Defence for Men – provides techniques aimed at diffusing situations and defending yourself in a confrontation.
To register for an upcoming class, contact 416-979-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Caution: women’s classes fill up fast – register early.