Drexel University’s Department of Public Safety’s Communication Accreditation and Training Manager, Colin Quinn, is in charge of the Public Safety Communications Center. As handling communications within Public Safety is a large part of Quinn’s job, he is a coordinator for the Drexel Guardian app — a safety feature that connects students with Drexel Police and Public Safety in the event of an emergency.
This interview was edited for grammar and clarity.
The Triangle: What is the Drexel Guardian app? What services does it offer Drexel students?
Colin Quinn: The Drexel Guardian application is our department’s smartphone application, and it provides another opportunity for our students, our faculty and our staff to reach out and interact with our department.
There are a few key features that are available through the application, most notable of which is the shadow escort functionality. You can set up a guardian — whether it be a family member, a sorority sister, a coworker — and they can track you in real-time on Google Maps as you walk from one destination to another. For instance, say you were in the library late at night and you set your roommate as your guardian — you set 10 minutes to walk from the library to Myers Hall, you arrive safely within the 10 minutes and deactivate your timer. In that time, your guardian can watch you walking along in Google Maps in real-time. If your timer does expire — whether it is because you don’t arrive safely or you forget to deactivate it, which is more common — Public Safety will then get a notification, have access to your location and start trying to find you. We are going to start contacting you by phone — if we can’t contact you by phone, we will send Drexel Police out to try to locate you.
TT: When students use the Drexel Guardian app, who are they communicating with? Do students have any protection while using the app?
CQ: Primarily, when students are using the app, students will be interacting with their guardians, whoever they set up — that is going to be someone you trust in your own personal circle. Public Safety is also going to be designated as your guardian on the back end. So if your alarm is not deactivated and/or there is an emergency, Public Safety is who you will be interacting with — that is our 24/7 Communications Center and our dispatchers. They are the experts you call when you need a walking escort, or if you need any type of Drexel Police or Public Safety assistance. Through the other functionality in the application, including the one-touch dialing and our text messaging function, students will be interacting directly with the Communications Center — there is an option for anonymity or you can associate your name with it. This provides a very student-friendly option for communicating with our department. Whether it’s an emergency or not, students can text us through the application, as well.
TT: Why is there a need for the Drexel Guardian app? How do you encourage students to download it?
CQ: The Drexel Guardian application is an easy reminder on your phone that we are in the community, and we are here to serve you. It’s a good tool. It’s no secret that policing and public safety aren’t the sexiest of topics, especially for college kids — I understand you want to explore your city and you feel invincible, but it’s good to have that tool right at your fingertips, one click away. We are not using it to track you at any time except when there is an actual emergency — we are very big on your rightful privacy.
TT: How long has the Guardian app been in use? How has the app been impactful so far?
CQ: The application has been around for almost five years. It’s a powerful tool — we have a lot of success stories from using the application. We have folks who use the shadow escort timer functionality every single day and we have other folks who use it off-campus — folks of all ages use the application, which I think is credited to its diversity and applicability. We have success stories that are equally impactful by using the one-touch dialing and text messaging services, for both emergencies and non-emergencies.
TT: Who can purchase and utilize the Drexel Guardian app?
CQ: The app is tied to your Drexel email account; you must have a Drexel email to use it. The application is free to anybody with an Android or Apple device, but to get the assistance of our department in particular, you must have a Drexel email account.
TT: Aside from the Drexel Guardian app, in what ways can students communicate with Drexel Police and Public Safety if needed?
CQ: Aside from the application, we have police officers patrolling our campus every single day. They are approachable people — we want you to feel comfortable approaching our police officers and our security officers if you need assistance in emergency and non-emergency situations, whether you need a walking escort or see something much bigger on the street. Other tools include our call boxes scattered around campus, which use one-touch dialing to put you in touch with our communications center — you will find a lot of these attached to buildings, around the community, as well. You can also always pick up your phone and call our phone number, 215-895-2222, and that will put you in touch with our Communications Center.
TT: What advice do you have for Drexel students in regard to the Guardian app and communicating with Public Safety in general?
CQ: I think one of the biggest messages that we would like to encourage is that safety and security is definitely a shared responsibility, and that starts at the community level. We want you to feel encouraged to reach out to us, to interact with us, to report crimes, to report things even if you aren’t sure it’s worthy enough to pick up the phone — that is when we want you to pick up the phone. We want you to be comfortable interacting with us. We are a very powerful resource and we want you to take advantage of it.