October 18, 2022 | UHCL Staff
Technology on college campuses is becoming much more than just adding more computer labs and SMART Boards. University of Houston-Clear Lake is elevating campus safety by using advanced technology that can help police officers respond virtually and immediately to a range of situations. These include an active shooter, a weather alert, a medical emergency, a simple burst pipe, or a broken window.
UH-Clear Lake Chief of Police Russell Miller is implementing the use of SafeZone, a unified safety and communications service from CriticalArc. The service, which is available as a mobile app that can be installed on any smart phone, allows campus security to respond to any safety risk as soon as they occur.
“The unique feature about SafeZone is that UHCL Police can ‘see’ you only when you interact with the app,” Miller said. “You will do a one-time sign-in, and then you can just use it as you need to.”
Miller explained that the UHCL campus was mapped out on the app. When someone opts in, they can zoom in very closely as needed in an emergency or if they simply want someone to know where they are. He said students could benefit most from the app’s “check-in” button.
“Let’s say you’re working alone in a lab, it’s late, and you’d like someone to know where you are,” he said. “Simply check in. Press the button, and someone in our dispatch will see you pop up on a screen. You’ll get a call, and you can just say, ‘I’m here.’ And dispatch will say they can see you, and that’s all there is to it.”
He added that no one can be “seen” on the app unless they opt in. “When you no longer need us to know where you are, you can just opt out by pushing the button,” he said. “You go off our screen at that moment.”
SafeZone has many features, including an option to send texts if speaking isn’t possible, and an option to send photos. Officers in the field can see the text stream, even if they did not see the initial outreach. This real-time information can empower those directly affected with vital details and a lifeline.
“There’s an emergency button, but if you accidentally push it, there’s a 10-second delay before it actually goes through, so you can push it again, and it stops the call,” he said.
“For me, this will be really helpful, because we often study till very late at the Rec and Wellness Center," said Disha Kapoor, a freshman Exercise and Health Science major. "I live off campus, and I have a bike. We don’t know who to call if something happens, so this helps me get out of the threat if something happens.”
Miller has been introducing the app and demonstrating the use of SafeZone to student groups and organizations as well as faculty and staff groups around campus. To request a personal demonstration of SafeZone to your group, contact Chief Miller at email@example.com.