ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Campus Safety department at Rochester Community and Technical college has been working on new ways to connect students to help should the find themselves in an unsafe situation.
“I feel like it’s our responsibility to watch over the students here,” explains Andy Hamann, Security Coordinator at RCTC. “I mean we have parents who are leaving their kids and it’s still our responsibility regardless if it’s on our campus or not.”
Hamann has taken the lead on a lot of the newer additions to campus security in recent years. One such measure puts the college in direct contact with law enforcement should there be an emergency on campus like an active shooter.
“We find that when everybody dials 911 phone lines get jammed up, it’s almost impossible to get live time information,” Hamann says. So they partnered with Olmsted County and got tied into the armour system.
“Not only can we relay live information, correct information, we can also help expedite the process and get them inside the building to eliminate the threat or any other concerns. I don’t know of any other institutions that have that capability.”
He says the college has taken a proactive approach to identify safety concerns students may have. That includes a smart phone application, that hasn’t even been announced yet because RCTC is still beta testing it. The app called “Blert” will connect students with campus dispatch and allow them to anonymously report suspicious activity. Users will be able to text in concerns and send photos. Hamann says they’ve found a lot of students are hesitant to “call out” their peers, which is why he thinks this app will be successful.
“It is anonymous but it will also give us locations of where concerns are coming in so that way we can look back and say, “We have a lot of concerns coming from this area so maybe we have to look back at a different strategy,” he adds.
Even with added safety measures on campus, some students still feel the need for extra security. A California-based company called ROBOCOPP alerted us to a recent surge in sales of their personal alarms to students at RCTC. The device is called a Sound Grenade and when a pin is pulled, a loud alarm sounds.
“The whole point is to give students something that could potentially prevent an attack rather than engaging in one,” explains Jill Turner, the PR Director at ROBOCOPP.
She says when students purchase the Sound Grenade or other ROBOCOPP products online, they have the option of inputting where they attend school. That has allowed the company to track where their personal alarms are being used, which according to Turner is on more than 100 college campuses in the U.S.
“There was one study out of the International Institute of Criminology and that found that 68% of criminals will fee a crime scene completely empty handed as soon as they hear an alarm,” Turner adds.
The devices are not implemented nor endorsed by RCTC, and campus officials are unaware if their students are using them.
As for what the campus is working on, it’s not clear when the “Blert” phone app will be ready to go. RCTC is one of a select few schools currently testing it.