Whitepaper: Assessing Emergency Response Times on Campus
The Campus Security department of a Toronto-based university commissioned this study to determine whether Guardly Safe Campus™ positively influences decision-making and swiftness of incident response efforts by university campus security. The university is responsible for safeguarding over 6,000 students, staff and faculty members and has a multi-building campus nestled within the downtown core of Toronto, Ontario.
- The university wanted to make available a mobile solution that enabled students to quickly alert and communicate with security dispatch in any situation, anywhere on campus grounds.
- Reporting an emergency on campus had been traditionally limited to blue light phones and emergency call boxes, a 10-digit phone number and extension for incoming phone calls, and walk-ins at the security dispatch desk.
- Mobility was important to overcome the stationary limitations of blue light phones, which inhibit one’s ability to communicate with dispatch if they need to change locations during the emergency.
- Typical mobile phone calls do not allow for dispatchers to track a mobile caller’s location.
- Study shows Guardly Safe Campus™ reduces emergency response times by an average of 44% per incident
- Guardly Mobile Apps add reliable blue light phone functionality to smartphones of students, staff and faculty
- Dispatchers used mobile location data, caller identification and profile, and phone features in 96% of incidents
- Secure instant messaging and photo sharing were helpful to dispatchers in at least 33% of incidents
Market Dynamics and Unmet Need
Smartphone adoption among college students has risen from 29% (2009) to 69% (2012) and is projected to increase further to 90% by 2014, according to a Ball State University study[i].
The increase of mobile phones on campus is correlated to the increase in calls to campus police from these devices versus landlines or blue light phones. Unfortunately, Wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) does not provide equivalent location accuracy to its landline-based E911 counterpart. Wireless E911 may take up to 6 minutes to report a caller’s latitude and longitude to authorities, according to Phase 2 of the US FCC requirement.
Blue light phones are commonly placed on university and college campuses and offer features such as two-way voice and being a visual representation of safety on campus; better models also offer strobe lights, sirens and streaming video. It is common for a fraction of these phones to be out of service on campus and require frequent maintenance and support. Certain universities have made plans to remove these phones altogether[ii].
There is an unmet need to provide an enhanced set of information about mobile callers, which includes location data, caller identification and other profile information such as a photo and known medical conditions for use by emergency dispatchers and responders at private and public institutions.
A Primer on Implementing Guardly Safe Campus™ as a Solution
Safe Campus™ is composed of two major software components, Guardly Command™ and Guardly Mobile Apps.
Guardly Command™is a web-based incident management system that helps dispatch personnel to monitor, manage and respond to emergencies within their campus boundaries. These campus boundaries (or geofences) can be configured to work with multiple dispatch centers or persons assigned to safeguard different parts of a campus. The system provides real-time caller location, caller identification and profile information (including allergies, medical conditions, medications and other information), which the company calls Situational Intelligence™ data. During an incident, dispatchers can speak with the caller by phone or engage in a conversation by secure instant messaging.
Guardly Mobile Appsare provided to students, staff and faculty to transform their smartphones into virtual blue light emergency phones that can remotely alert central dispatch from anywhere on campus simply by launching the app. The mobile application provides the ability to communicate with dispatch by phone and/or secure instant messaging, while tracking real-time location. These and other features, such as photo sharing, help to provide campus police with more information to make better decisions.
Guardly Mobile Apps are free to download and are available on iOS (Apple), Android (Google), BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices. Implementing Safe Campus™ does not require any internal IT integration with campus law enforcement systems and can be done within hours.
Experimental and control data analysis led to the following results. For an overview of the study design and research methods, please see Appendix A.
An overall reduction in response time by 44% per incident (8 minutes and 10 seconds) on average was found when comparing experimental data to control data (total n=54).
Incident response times were spilt into two incident response periods (A and B, as shown in the graph “Guardly vs. Non-Guardly Response Times” above): (A) the time difference between receiving an incoming call and dispatching security personnel; and (B) the time difference between dispatching security personnel and ending the incident. Results indicated an average time savings of 50% (33 seconds) for the first time-measurement category (A), as total average time elapsed for that period decreased from 67 seconds to 33 seconds when using Guardly Safe Campus™. For the second time-measurement category (B), a time savings of 43% (7:37 minutes) was observed, as total average time elapsed for that period decreased from 17:27 minutes to 9:50 minutes when using Guardly Safe Campus™.
On average, 3.67 Situational Intelligence™ features were used by dispatch per incident when using the Guardly Command™ interface of Safe Campus™.
It was found that 2 or more features were used in 100% of incidents (location and profile information) and that 3 or more features were used in 96% of incidents. Direct one-to-one calling was used in 89% of the cases, secure instant messaging was used in 44% of cases, and photo sharing was used in 33% of cases.
A time-adjustment factor of 2 minutes and 30 seconds was added to each experimental incident prior to calculating the study results.
According to data provided by our customer in the higher education industry, there is typically a reduced amount of foot traffic and general incidents by a factor of 50-60% over the summer semester (the timeframe in which the testing occurred). To remove any actual or apparent bias that may have favored faster response times, this time adjustment was imposed.
It is possible that replicating this study under normal conditions, without the addition of a time-adjustment factor, may yield even more favorable results.
Secure Instant Messaging Provides Additional Channel for Critical Communication
Traditionally, emergency dispatch centers have been unable to receive text messages. This is problematic because situations can arise when an emergency caller is either under duress or cannot speak for other reasons, and may lose their ability to communicate effectively with campus police. The Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 provide a good example, whereby many students tried sending text messages to authorities rather than placing phone calls. At the time, those authorities were unable to receive those text messages and could not access the valuable information that may have helped in response and rescue efforts.
Safe Campus™ provides the ability to send and receive secure instant messages (sent over HTTPS, rather than SMS), which allows callers the choice of communicating by text when they feel threatened or uncomfortable speaking on the phone. This functionality is useful in cases when a person is hiding for safety or doesn’t want to alert an assailant that they are communicating with security. It is also a useful method to enhance accessibility to campus police for those with hearing impairments.
Incoming Caller Identification and Profiles aid in Emergency Response Decisions
Dispatchers are faced with a difficult task. They are required to quickly distill everything they can about a situation from a limited set of information and make the best possible decisions. Since emergencies can vary greatly, incoming caller identification and profile information can be extremely useful to dispatchers.
This study included incidents dealing with medical, harassment, assault and suspicious person concerns. Medical emergencies are one of the most frequent types of incidents that warrant immediate response and can be caused by accidents on campus, allergies or a variety of other pre-existing medical conditions.
Harassment, sexual assault and workplace harassment cases are other incidents that typically show a recurring pattern or trend over time. It is valuable for a dispatcher to have quick access to previous incidents associated with this caller so that they can glean any relevant information about the potential assailant, even if the caller cannot engage in dialog or text-based communication.
The Guardly Command™ interface displays the incoming caller’s profile information, which includes allergies, medical conditions and medications. Its reporting interfaces allow dispatchers to quickly view every past incident related to an incoming user’s profile. This information collectively helps dispatchers make better real-time decisions.
Guardly Safe Campus™ Reduces Emergency Response Times
Results of this study showed Guardly Safe Campus™ to help security personnel respond to emergencies 44% faster than traditional methods, suggesting that it may be more effective than many existing systems in place for both reporting emergencies as well as monitoring and responding to them on campus. The amount of time saved per incident on average may offer life-saving advantages when responding to medical emergencies and when alerting an entire community about a suspicious person, shooter or other community threat.
Dispatchers make Better Decisions with Guardly Command™
The Situational Intelligence™ data provided by Guardly Command™ was a significant factor leading to higher-quality decisions by dispatchers when using Safe Campus™ versus existing systems. Study data indicated that dispatchers used 3.67 Situational Intelligence™ features per incident on average. Better information led to making correct decisions with better guidance to responding security personnel, which collectively accounted for the significant reduction in emergency response times, most notably a 50% reduction in the time difference between receiving an incoming call and dispatching security personnel.
Guardly Mobile Apps Add Blue Light Phone Functionality to Smartphones
In each of the experimental incidents, the inbound emergency callers used Guardly Mobile Apps to quickly trigger alerts to campus security dispatch. The Guardly Mobile Apps also helped the emergency caller communicate time-sensitive information using a two-way, two-channel interface by phone and secure instant messaging. The Guardly Mobile Apps were utilized successfully 100% of the time, working reliably both indoors and outdoors.
Appendix A: Study Design and Research Methods
The study was designed to determine if there would be any significant changes to incident response times when using Safe Campus™ versus incidents reported and responded to using traditional means.
This study is based on data generated from live emergency incident simulations designed to replicate real on campus emergency scenarios. Data selection criteria required the university campus security department to identify 27 real emergency incidences that occurred over the past year that warranted an immediate emergency response (control group). For each of these 27 incidences: (1) the emergency caller must have notified and communicated with campus security by a mobile phone or an existing emergency response system; and (2) the emergency incident type must have required an immediate response to a medical, harassment, assault, or suspicious person concern.
For the experimentation phase of the study, a testing group within the customer’s campus security team independently recreated, re-enacted and simulated each of the 27 incidents, mimicking the location of the emergency call, situation at hand and other incident-specific attributes. The variables of significance being tested were the use of Guardly Mobile Apps to report the emergency (versus traditional methods used in the control group) and Guardly Command™ to monitor, manage and respond to these simulated emergencies.
Experimental data was captured and compared to control group data to determine any significant changes to incident response times. Results during actual emergencies may vary. A follow-up study based on real-life customer scenarios using Guardly Safe Campus™ will be performed and may be compared to this pilot study.
Appendix B: How Guardly Safe Campus™ Complements Emergency or Mass Notification Systems for Complete Emergency Management
The Clery Act requires universities and colleges in the US to have emergency warning systems in place to alert their students, staff and faculty of campus safety concerns within a short period of time. The need for emergency or mass notification service (EMNS) continues to grow among educational institutions, governments, and private enterprises (regulated or not). Increasingly, mass notification systems are being judged on their ability to quickly reach large audiences, carrying important and time-sensitive messages. In part, the competencies of these systems rely on decision makers finding out about on-premise threats as soon as possible.
Gartner released a report in January 2012 titled The Emergency or Mass Notification Service Market: Now and for the Next Five Years that emphasized the interplay between mobile capabilities and EMNS management. Highlights from the report include:
- “Mobile technology has become a critical delivery method for EMNS.”
- “In 2012 and beyond, EMNS on a mobile device will take EMNS well beyond messaging and into emergency management operations and situational awareness of overall recovery management.”
- “Two of the features that will become standard on a mobile device include: geolocating personnel and consuming information about the crisis from EMNS participants, and then pushing it out to their mobile devices as well as to the team managing the crisis.”
Guardly Safe Campus™ supports integration with many of the leading EMNS systems in the market today. Guardly Mobile Apps provide an easy way to transform mobile devices of students, staff and faculty into blue light phones that can help departments of public safety and police find out about events occurring on campus as quickly as possible. This knowledge and additional information provided by Guardly Command™ can help dispatchers make better decisions, placing the Safe Campus™ suite at a core inflection point of a developing emergency incident on campus.
Future studies may explore the how Safe Campus™ used in combination with EMNS systems may result in better situational awareness by dispatchers and help ensure timely delivery of alerts to campus stakeholders in an emergency threatening the broader campus community.