GVPD offers new safety app

Duane Emery

It’s late. You’re all alone and lost in your mental schedule, trying to piece together the tasks that will greet you after just a few short hours of sleep. It’s dark. There are no light posts on the long walk to your apartment just off campus. A chill radiates off your shoulders, but only partially from the cold. You think you are alone, but you wish you didn’t have to make the trek all by yourself when the unease turns yards into miles.

Being out alone can be a scary thing, even on a college campus. Now, there is a new tool that can help provide peace of mind, and help keep students safe when they feel most vulnerable. The Rave Guardian Campus Safety App, new to Grand Valley State University this fall, allows users to connect to campus security and call 911 at the push of a button.

“If you are walking, you can have the Grand Valley Police Department follow you, so it becomes a virtual safe walk,” said Capt. DeHaan of GVPD.

This feature is one of the primary functions of the app, which is compatible with the majority of smart phones.

The virtual safe walk has two modes, passive and active. When students want to use the feature, they simply type in a status and set a timer for when they should arrive at their destination. Once the timer reaches zero, if the user hasn’t deactivated the app it goes into active mode and alerts GVPD.

“When the alert goes off, we call them,” said Emily Klebba, one of GVPD’s dispatchers. “If no one answers we send an officer to their last known location.”

Though there have been false alarms with the timer reaching zero, they are easily dealt with and haven’t been an issue.

“Usually they just say they forgot to turn it off,” Klebba said.

According to DeHaan, the app mostly gets used at night, though the system is manned 24/7 in case someone should want or need to use it.

“We’re like Denny’s, we never close,” he said.

Fortunately, so far the app has not needed to be used to its full potential.

“We have not had any incidents yet where someone was in crisis,” DeHaan said.

Should a crisis arise, the app’s other main feature allows for quick response. Using the built in panic button, any user can instantly be connected to campus police or 911 with one button, and can even text for help if they are in a position where they are unable to speak.

Users can also supply as little or as much information as they want, such as medical conditions, allergies, emergency contacts and other critical information, which automatically gets sent to dispatchers when they call GVPD or 911 in Ottawa County.

“It speeds things up dramatically,” DeHaan said.

More than 300 people have registered with the app as of mid-September, but DeHaan said it would be beneficial if all students had it just in case of an emergency, and also because users can submit tips to the police department.

“It’s nice to know that there’s something out that lets you get in touch with campus security if you need it,” said GVSU student Vanessa Matelski. “The world isn’t 100 percent safe, so it’s good to have plans.”

The Rave Guardian is available on the Apple app store and Google play. For more information go to www.ravemobilesafety.com/rave-guardian.