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University of Calgary launches new emergency app

By Hayden McBennett, May 21 2015 —

The University of Calgary now has a notification-based mobile app intended to keep campus safe. The free app, called UC Emergency, sends out push notifications with security information to its users.

Bob Maber, a manager with the U of C’s emergency management department, helped work on the project. He believes the app is an innovative way to enhance security on campus.

“[The app] is a subscription based service. We’re helping them to develop the app so it can be used by other institutions. We’re just the first one,” Maber said.

The university partnered with Calgary application developer Rally Engine to create the app. U of C alumni were among those who worked on UC Emergency.

“The biggest benefit of [the app] is that it’s the quickest way to notify the community of emergency situations that arise and to give information for them to be able to protect themselves,” Maber said.

Students’ Union vice-president student life Kirsty McGowan said the SU supports the app.

“I think it’s a great initiative that campus security is taking on,” McGowan said. “It’s a great way to keep students informed on campus.”

Until now, the university has used e-mail alerts to warn students of potential dangers on campus. The e-mails will continue being used alongside the app.

McGowan, who is already using the app, thinks it has advantages over e-mail alerts.

“A lot of students use apps now. Especially with the push notifications I think it’s just a way that a lot of students will see the notifications,” McGowan said.

As of May 19, 1,625 people had downloaded the app. Maber hopes it will become even more popular among students.

“There’s no one way you can reach everybody but this is one method in our toolbox. With the popularity of applications, we can get pretty good penetration of our community,” Maber said.

Once users receive a notification, they will be able to access a feed of information from security.

“We’ve already got a bit of a marketing and communications plan started,” Maber said. “We will be putting up posters and we have some other plans for the new semester to get new students on board.”

The SU intends to help the university get as many students as possible to download the app.

“We will be promoting it and letting students know to download it. Obviously there’ll be a bigger push for that in the fall,” McGowan said.

The app will also feature a contact tab with one-click access to emergency numbers.

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