On Nov. 17, the Dept. of Public Safety will launch the mobile safety application LiveSafe, which will allow students to report emergencies or send tips about safety hazards using text messages, photos and video.
It will be available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
“It turns your phone into a mobile blue light phone,” said DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle, referring to the emergency phones stationed at various locations throughout campus. “Even if nothing is said, we’ll be able to see the students location via a GPS component.”
In addition to allowing students to contact DPS, the app also includes a SafeWalk feature that allows students to input their destination so that friends can track each other on the map with the option to contact DPS if necessary.
“While we don’t want students walking alone off campus after dark, if you did, you could use the SafeWalk feature to tell your friends who are also on this application when you are leaving and how long you think it will take to get where you’re going,” Carlisle said. “Then they can track your progress and if you don’t arrive then they know something has happened and they can report that to DPS.”
The app also includes a campus map feature.
Monday through Thursday of next week, DPS will have LiveSafe booths on both the University Park and Health Science campuses. The department will be raffling off 20 iPod touches and OtterBox cases per day. If students show they have downloaded the app, they will also get a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Advertisements for the app will also appear on USC trams and buses starting next week.
DPS has been looking at investing in a mobile safety application for more than a year. Over the summer, a committee of members from DPS and Environmental Health & Safety reviewed proposals for several different mobile safety applications and met with nearly 25 vendors. But LiveSafe stood out because it was simple to use and is already being used in other universities nationwide, including Arizona State University, University of Cincinnati, Georgetown University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The app also has a unique backstory. One of its founders, Kristina Anderson, was a survivor of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people. Anderson was a sophomore at the time of the shooting.
“[Anderson] is a big advocate for campus safety,” said Jill Frater, business continuity specialist at USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning. “The other apps really didn’t have that personal touch behind it that this one does.”
Carlisle said it was also important that the app be customizable to USC. Upon first download, students will be asked to select the University of Southern California as their school. This will take them to the cardinal and gold version of the app that includes the USC seal and has DPS contact information preprogrammed.
Bill Regensburger, the director of Fire Safety and Emergency Planning, helped develop the customized version of the application and said he spoke with a number of student groups, including the Undergraduate Student Government, the Graduate Student Government and the International Student Assembly, seeking ideas about what would make the app useful and practical for students. Regensburger said that the ability to text rather than call DPS to report a tip or in case of emergency is important for improving safety.
“I’ve noticed that for this generation they would rather text something than make a phone call,” Regensburger said. “We should adapt to the way students operate best. We want to do all that we can to help keep students safe but it needs to involve the students too.”
Regensburger said that though the first version of the app is being rolled out on Nov. 17, students should expect updates with new features. He said students expressed interest in being able to use the app to know the estimated time it would take for a Campus Cruiser to get to their location, a feature that is currently being explored. Carlisle said DPS is also exploring the option of using the app as a source for Trojan Alerts.
Carlisle said the goal is to have 100 percent of students, faculty and staff using the app. and he hopes the majority of students will make use of it as time goes on.
Regensburger is adamant that as students use the app, they should continue to voice their concerns and ideas for improvements.
“I want students to give us suggestions,” Regensburger said. “The thing that students have told me is that we need to put things that are useful day-to-day into the app. We want to make it an app that’s all-in-one where students can get a lot of things done.”