author Jacob MacIsaac, Monday September 14, 2015

Co-written by Lauren Jeffs, 3rd Year Commerce Student; Jake MacIsaac, Dal Security Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

We are confident that students are safe on campus, but that isn’t enough. It is important that students not only are safe, but also that they feel safe. Feeling safe is such an important part of post-secondary education.

"As a student, I can tell you that university can bring some of the best times, but can also bring some of the most stressful ones as well," says Lauren Jeffs, Third Year Commerce Student. "Students come from all over Canada and are suddenly disconnected with their family, friends and the resources that they have previously known and grown up with. It can all be terribly overwhelming and intimidating finding your way around a new city, meeting new people and all the while adjusting to a higher standard of education."

For us in the security team, we had come to realize that most students viewed our role as transactional and utilitarian – call us to open a door, take a report, and/or issue a ticket. Further complicating the dynamic, is the relatively obscure location of our security office and less than ideal signage or clear way-finding. In essence, we were largely inaccessible and/or irrelevant to most students. So, we deliberately started to think about doing business differently and what it would mean to transition from being a security force to becoming a security service. If we were going to connect with students, providing safety and support to ease their transition process, this meant focusing on building relationships, and a sense of community where students felt heard and engaged.

So how can we make Dal Security accessible and relevant to such a diverse group of students and faculty? We made it convenient, and what better way than a smartphone app? Smartphones are centered on the idea of convenience. By making it free and available to students with IPhone, Blackberry or Android, the app represents a better way to make students safe and make them feel safe because suddenly security is accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The application allows for students to easily get in touch with Dal security by accessing all of its available services through one portal. With the tap of a button students can contact the Tiger Patrol shuttle, report information, pay parking and connect with Mental Health Crisis Unit and local police. The app also represents a critical part in safety planning by including a GPS-enabled map of campus, a duress alarm and steps to take should a critical incident occur. So while students are adjusting to university life, it is securing knowing that all these services are available right in the palm of your hand.

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