LSU unveiled a new smartphone app Tuesday that officials hope will decrease the response time to emergencies on campus.
The app is capable of connecting the user to emergency services on campus and giving the dispatcher a GPS location of the caller and other information first responders might need during emergencies.
The app, which has been available since the summer, is called LSU SHIELD and is free for both iOS and Android phones, LSU Police spokesman Capt. Cory Lalonde said.
“We encourage not only students, faculty and staff, but we want visitors to download it, too,” Lalonde said.
When a person uses the app on campus to call 911, the call goes directly to the LSU police dispatchers along with any information the users enter when they set up the app, including name, address, phone number, medications, family doctors and allergies. The app also sends a GPS location of the phone to the dispatcher.
Lalonde called it an “enhanced 911” system, adding that users do not have to completely fill out the information screen. “There’s very minimal information they have to enter to use the app,” he said.
If the user is outside LSU’s campus when they use the emergency dialing feature, the call goes to city 911 dispatchers.
“Anything that’s going to assist, anything that’s going to hasten the response time is good,” said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman. “We stand behind them making this move.”
The app also has a feature called the Safety Beacon, which allows the user to log where he is going and how long he expects it will take to get there, Lalonde said. When the time is up, the app will ask the user to input a personal identification number. If that PIN is not entered, the app will send a text to the user’s emergency contacts asking them to contact the user.
The emergency contact can then alert police if the app’s user does not respond, Lalonde said.
The user can also hit the “Check In” button to let his emergency contacts know he is safe, Lalonde said. The function is handy for people walking home from class late at night, work or other outings and can be used off-campus.
Users also have the ability to send police information about thefts, drug use, vandalism or a suspicious person as well as photos or videos of any incident, Lalonde said.
The app also contains a list of several scenarios, like an active shooter on campus or a power outage, with advice on what users should do in those situations.
“LSU Police would like to emphasize that this system is not a guarantee that a person will not be the victim of a crime, but it will be an additional tool that will be very useful in an emergency situation,” Lalonde said.
Officials began looking into safety apps several years ago, but started seriously researching them about two years ago when they realized the technology was available for the type of system they wanted, Lalonde said. There was no one specific incident that demonstrated the need for the app.
After about a year of research, LSU officials began working with 911 Cellular LLC, Lalonde said. About six to seven months later, the app was ready to go and LSU police began fine-tuning it during the summer to fit their needs.
The app will cost LSU about $24,000 a year to operate, with about 70 percent of that money coming from student government and the university covering the remainder, Lalonde said. It was purchased on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.