USG, DPS mull panic button plan

USC’s Department of Public Safety is letting students make the call on how they prefer to stay safe on campus.

The Undergraduate Student Government is currently surveying student interest in a program that would transform students’ phones into mobile panic buttons.

The Rave Guardian Mobile Safety Program features a one-touch panic button. Once students register their phones, they gain access to the panic button feature, which when pressed sends the student’s name, photo and location to DPS.

The program is accessible on any phone — not just smart phones — because it transforms one of the physical buttons on the handset into a panic button that activates when held down, much like speed dial.

DPS Capt. Antonia Young said she thinks the program is more effective than speed dial because it automatically sends DPS a student’s vital information.

“What makes the panic button more effective than just calling DPS is the fact that it allows us to actually have your GPS location. Once the button is pressed, DPS automatically knows your name, what you look like and where you were last at with your phone,” Young said.

The program also comes with a time mode feature, which is a precautionary timer that students can set before they leave to walk somewhere. The student inputs the approximate time they think it will take to reach the destination and deactivates the timer once he gets there safely. If something goes wrong, however, DPS is alerted.

DPS reached out to USG for help gauging student interest.

“We were approached by DPS about a new program that would engage student support,” said USG Director of Campus Affairs Helen Moser. “The survey came up because we didn’t want to recommend the program without going to the students first.”

Rave Guardian is one of the many companies DPS is considering for this new type of phone security, but they do not want to invest money in a program students aren’t going to use.

“The introduction of this program is solely based on student participation,” Young said.

Young said one benefit to the program, however, is that students can choose whether or not to participate.

“What makes this program more effective is that it’s an opt-in program, so students can decide when they want to use the security option,” Young said. “We don’t set the timer, they do. It’s just another layer of security for students on campus.”

Students have mixed views about whether the program would be useful.

Many said they already have enough options for contacting security in case of an emergency.

“If anything, I could see more girls using the program more over guys,” said Jac’Quez Page, a freshman majoring in psychology. “As a guy, I really wouldn’t feel the need to use a panic button or timer in many situations. Having DPS emergency on speed dial is enough for me.”

Others, however, thought it could be useful.

“I would use the panic button because I’ve been in a situation where I haven’t had enough time to talk to DPS over the phone,” said Yasmina Khulusi, a freshman majoring in international relations (global business). “If I’m out by myself at night, it would be a quick way to contact security.”

The USG Mobile Safety Survey has generated about 165 responses so far, and USG says hope to increase that number.