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Photo courtesy U of C's Environment Health and Safety (EHS)

UCSafety app aims to keep students, faculty and employees safe on campus 

By Nazeefa Ahmed, August 29 2023—

The University of Calgary’s Environment Health and Safety (EHS) team has launched UCSafety, an app that is aimed at centralizing resources and alerts for the university community to increase safety and security on campus.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, EHS specialist Molly Chisholm describes how the WorkAlone feature on the app allows employees to set check-in times and connect with TeleLink if there are any issues. 

“It’s quite often that employees or student researchers work late in the evening and alone in labs, so this service is available in those situations,” said Chisholm. “There’s complete functionality behind it to make sure that [employees] are healthy and safe. They have a check-in process to follow and if they miss a check-in the app automatically reaches back to them and to our third-party responders to check on that person.” 

Shannon Stucky, senior communications and digital specialist with the Office of Advancement, describes FriendWalk, another feature on the app that allows users to share their location with someone to add an additional security measure when commuting alone. FriendWalk is not limited to campus and can be used anywhere there is cell service or wireless connection. 

“It’s kind of like when you get an Uber, and you send your location to a friend so they can watch you in transit,” said Stucky. “So, you have full control and access to send your location to whoever you want to be monitoring your travel in between places.”

StudyAlone is a feature particular to students, that will allow for predetermined check-ins with friends and family.

“This is very specific for our students studying by themselves, usually after hours,” said Stucky. “Students have the opportunity to have a friend or a family member that they can check-in with,” said Stucky. “If they don’t hear from you when you say you’re going to contact them, they will actually get contacted to follow up with you to make sure that you’re okay.”

Chisholm discusses privacy and personal data concerns regarding the app, stating that the app deletes any location information after ending a session. Information entered from the WorkAlone feature is stored with very limited accessibility, with the intention of following up in case of emergencies.  

“The app does ask to set up the notifications and location on your device when you’re using services such as FriendWalk — that information is not stored after your session,” said Chisholm. “If you use the StudyAlone feature, you are putting the information into the app. The only people who have access to that information are Campus Security and EHS, with very limited accessibility,” said Chisholm. 

“This is so we can follow up if there’s been any issues. We don’t ever want to have somebody working alone or studying alone, where something goes wrong and we can’t fix that with any corrective actions, like a wellness check from campus security,” Chisholm continued. 

Though the app was rigorously tested, Stucky invites students and faculty to share feedback on the app so that developers can improve user experience. 

“We have been doing a lot of testing on the technical side as well, but we are always open and willing to hear feedback from our users, so we can ensure that the app remains functional and useful for everyone.”

UCSafety also has resources for users to report incidents on campus, wellness resources, as well as campus, parking and Calgary transit maps. Stucky recommends downloading the UCSafety app in addition to the UCalgary Alertus Emergency app to optimize safety on campus for the U of C community. 

“We are encouraging all students and faculty and staff to download both apps because they do provide slightly different safety features, but using them in conjunction would really increase the amount of safety on and off campus,” said Stucky. “Doing so would reduce injuries and potentially even save lives.”

UCSafety is available for download on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. More details on the app can be found on the U of C website.

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