UNC students, faculty and staff who place on-campus 911 calls could benefit from improved emergency help by opting in to the new Smart911 system.
Funded by the Division of Student Affairs, implemented by the Department of Public Safety and started last week, Smart911 allows users to link personal information to registered cell phones using Rave Wireless technology.
If a registered phone places a 911 call from somewhere on or near campus that gets routed through DPS, the information will be automatically displayed to dispatchers.
Anyone with a UNC Onyen can register for free at getrave.com. Students can also register March 30 on campus during Public Safety Day at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Brian Payst, director of technology and systems support for the Division of Student Affairs, said adopting Smart911 was the next step in an evolving campus safety program that includes services like Alert Carolina.
“We think it’s a really great service,” he said. “It should enhance safety quite a bit when you’re on campus.”
Payst said he couldn’t disclose the program’s cost, but said he thinks the financial costs are outweighed by the safety benefits.
Smart911 users can control the information they give. UNC’s Smart911 website recommends providing at least a physical description and a recent photograph.
Users can also provide information about their job, vehicle or medical history, as well as emergency contacts and a home address.
A GPS service that allows dispatchers to track callers is also available to customers of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint.
All profile information remains entirely private until a 911 call is made, so user security is not at risk.
“Any information provided is made available only to the dispatcher and the emergency responder in the field during that 911 response only, and after that point it becomes unavailable,” said DPS spokesman Randy Young.
“That’s a big message we want to get across: that it can only help.”
UNC is the first school in North Carolina to adopt the system, but more than 4 million people nationwide are a part of the Smart911 database. Young said other large universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of South Florida, also use the program.
Payst said DPS has received student support for the initiative and is working to promote the service.
“Anytime public safety is talking to a group of students, they’ll be talking about this program. Student government is also actively involved,” he said.
Student Body President-elect Mary Cooper said she registered.
“I entered in information about myself, so that should my phone ever call 911, then they know what I look like and who I am,” she said.
Cooper said she thinks the program is a great idea and is happy to be participating.
“In an effort to make this campus safer, this is another thing that will accomplish that,” she said.
Although many students have not yet heard about the program, freshmen Markus Le, Nikki Eskenasi and Aya Avishai-Yitshak all expressed positive feelings about Smart911.
“It sounds like something that would be good, but I hope I’d never have to use it,” Le said.
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