SAN ANTONIO — School safety is one of the main concerns when college students return to campus next week, and a local university is the first in the world to use an innovative system to keep those students safe.
On Monday, nearly 7,000 students will return to the campus of Texas A&M San Antonio.
In the last few months, the campus police department has been implementing new, advanced technology to improve safety across the campus.
Assistant Chief Roger Stearns said they’ve installed beacons in all the buildings and on each floor. According to Stearns, the beacons aren’t cameras, but they can identify the precise location of a student or staff member in time of emergency.
“When you're talking about an active shooter situation or medical emergency, you're talking about situations where second saves lives,” Stearns said.
The A&M Police Department deployed an app called Safezone at the beginning of last semester. When using the app, students, faculty or staff can alert the dispatcher for an emergency of any kind.
Police can use a three-dimensional view of the campus buildings to visualize the exact location of where that person is on campus—precisely on the floor, hallway or even the room of the building.
Stearns said he’s excited about the new system, primarily because it cuts down officer response time.
“In older style safety apps, you'll get the G.P.S coordinates,” Stearns said. “We would have to check multiple floors to make sure that we were in the right location if we were responding to an incident."
Stearns said the Safezone app takes the emergency phones of the past and places the person in real-time where the emergency is happening. Plus, dispatch can see exactly where responding officers are en route to the emergency.
“We know where our resources are, and are able to better direct police and citizen first responders as to how to respond and help with an incident,” said Stearns.
Safezone is not a big brother kind of system where police are keeping an eye on you wherever you are on campus. Students can choose to check-in to the app, or just open the app and create an alert for police to know where to send help.
“Law enforcement needs to make sure that we're being as accessible as possible to the community and to do so in a way that they communicate,” Stearns said.