Public Safety Summer Updates

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Director of Public Safety Mike Hill updated The Daily Gazette on various projects Public Safety has been working on to ensure campus safety. These measures include an expanded campus phone system, two mobile applications, and continued maintenance of campus lighting. Future plans include a phased rollout of a new blue-light system and access control, or ID card access to buildings on campus.  Many of the initiatives are under what Hill is calling the GARNET (General Alert and Response Network) Safety System. In order to heighten campus awareness about the College’s many emergency systems, he, in consultation with the Crisis Planning Advisory Committee (CPAC), has been developing a concept that would allow us to promote the various campus emergency and notification programs under one umbrella – The GARNET Safety System. The CPAC is charged with ensuring campus preparedness in times of crisis and includes Liz Braun, Dean of Students, Rachel Head, Head of the Office of Student Engagement, Sharmaine LaMar, Assistant VP for Risk Management and Legal Affairs, and Stu Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Services, among others.  The GARNET Safety System includes emergency notification tools, InformaCast, EmergenSee, SWATSafety and the new emergency phones, as well as retrofitting some existing phones with a blue light.

Campus Phones

Over the course of the past year, Public Safety has been in the process of installing 500 phone systems on campus, both replacing old phones and installing new phones. The initiative was proposed by Joel Cooper, the head of Information Technology Services (ITS).

The latest batch of 250 phones have been installed in dorms and other buildings on campus over the summer. The cost of the project has been built into the College’s capital budget for ITS. The phones are equipped to function as a public address system if Public Safety has a message it needs to communicate quickly to all members of the College, contact Public Safety, and some phones in higher risk areas such as the Admissions Commons and circulation desks are equipped with a “garnet button” or panic button to call Public Safety to the site of that phone.

Bluelight System

In response to the results of the Public Safety survey sent out at the end of Spring 2014, conversations with the Public Safety Advisory Committee, and because of the age of our existing emergency telephone infrastructure and the need to meet current standards for emergency communications, Public Safety has also explored new Bluelight units modeled from other schools’ Bluelight systems. In addition to the College’s existing 15 courtesy phones which Public Safety is looking to retrofit, they are also hoping to buy more systems and have been looking at potential models over the summer. Each bluelight system costs an estimated $25,000 per blue light unit and this money would come out of Public Safety’s  budget. Each garnet-colored device would include an emergency phone, a public address system, a campus map, a campus directory and a security camera among other features. Students would also be able to use them to call any other campus phone.

Mobile Applications and Lighting

Public Safety uses two mobile applications for use with smartphones and iPads: EmergenSee, which came out a year and a half ago, and Swat Safety, which launched last year. EmergenSee allows users to send a live feed and GPS coordinates to Public Safety if they are in an emergency, text a communication officer at Benjamin West House, or leave a “breadcrumb trail,” which is when a user sets a timer for a walk back home and if the user does not reach the destination in the set amount of time, the app notifies Public Safety. It also serves as a notification system for all campus emergencies.

Swat Safety is a more informational app, and gives campus notifications from Public Safety, the crime log, the crime log, awareness and prevention tips, as well as general updates from Public Safety. SWATSafety can be downloaded free from the App Store by searching for Swarthmore.

Public Safety is also always working with Facilities to maintain a well-lit campus at night and replaces and installs new lights around roads and paths on an ongoing basis.

ID Card Access (Access Control)

Many students have been asking about access control on campus, or using an ID card to swipe into a building, and whether that would be a feasible possibility in the future. Losing a key is both expensive and a security concern, and the current system of using physical keys requires that each summer, exterior key cores, and when necessary interior key cores in certain buildings, be replaced at the beginning and end of the summer, which can be a costly and time-consuming process.

The computer science labs in the Science Center, the Language Resource Center, and the Media Center in Beardsley are the only rooms that currently have access control, but the new Matchbox building and Danawell will have access control when construction is completed.

Access control has been on the agenda for the school for many years, but the switch to access control from physical keys can’t be completed all at once because all the exterior doors in a converted building would have to be replaced, and a device to communicate between doors and Public Safety would have to be installed, which is a costly process. Ideally, in the future students will be able to use their ID cards for meals, at the bookstore, and for access control.

Overall, the GARNET Safety System has three additional campus security tools: the EmergenSee app, the new public address system, and the bluelight phones to be installed in the future, though Hill reiterated that security is not all about technology; the most important resource for security is a close-knit community with good instincts and a willingness to help.

The following corrections were made to this article post-publication:

(11:42 p.m., 9/3/14)  Mike Hill is actually the Chair of the Crisis Planning Advisory Committee, not Joel Cooper.

(11:42 p.m., 9/3/14) Stu Hain’s last name was initially misspelled.


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