Laker Guardian app expands student safety efforts

A student uses the new Laker Guardian App.  GVL / Sheila Babbitt

A student uses the new Laker Guardian App.  GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Laureen Horan

In an effort to ensure campus safety and easy access to emergency services, Grand Valley State University has recently updated their Laker Guardian app and encourage students and faculty to download it on their mobile devices. 

Have you ever been afraid to walk from class to your car? Do you get worried during your past-dark workouts? Have you ever been on a first date that’s left you feeling uncomfortable? Now, thanks to a collaboration between the Grand Valley Police Department and RaveGuardian, the Laker Guardian app provides students with a virtual buddy when safety concerns arise. 

“There’s a few different components to the app, such as a safety timer, panic button and an anonymous text tip hotline that goes directly to dispatch,” said Assistant Director of Public Safety and GVPD Captain Jeff Stoll. “The safety timer feature provides users with a ‘guardian’ to observe them as they walk across campus. This allows them to pick a contact in their phone and notifies the contact that they are walking. Once the timer is deactivated, we know the person is safe. If not, the selected contact will be notified that the timer went off.”

The Laker Guardian can actually use the camera function to “watch” the user walking and GPS capabilities make it easy to locate and reach a student who may be in danger. In the event that the timer does go off, an alert will be sent to GVPD with location and users will receive a call to check on them. If no response is received, officers will head toward the user’s location to do a physical wellness check.

Stoll added that this app has actually been around for several years, but only about 2,000 students have downloaded the app. That’s less than ten percent of GVSU’s student population. This is an easily accessible tool that could be useful for any student during any emergency, and so GVPD is striving to promote the app and make students aware of its availability.

“This app isn’t just intended for people who are walking late at night, it’s for anything you might need to contact us for. If a student has a seizure or other medical emergency in class, we can get to them quickly. If there’s a fight somewhere, students can report tips anonymously and we can assess the situation,” Stoll said. 

Stoll emphasized the texting capabilities within the app. You don’t have to share any of your personal information and dispatchers can receive photos with this feature as well. 

GVPD Community Officer Betsy Wenk gives another good reason for students to download the Laker Guardian app.

“It will make your mom so happy! We get a lot of questions from parents regarding campus safety and this is a tool we use to provide reassurance to students and their families. The general consensus from students I’ve spoken with agree that they prefer to have someone walk with them at night, so we wanted to give people a chance to be walked virtually if they need it,” Wenk said.

By being proactive and taking the initiative to contact emergency services when needed, students can do their part to keep their living and learning environments safe. 

“We aren’t trying to scare our students, we want to empower them,” Wenk said. 

In addition to updating and promoting Laker Guardian, each classroom and most conference rooms on all GVSU campuses now have emergency placards near the exits that contain information on how to respond to various emergencies, who to call, and the address of the building. 

Laker Guardian is available for free on Apple and Android devices. Use keywords “Rave Guardian” to install the app, then select GVSU and log-in with your student email.