The University of Maryland Police recently introduced the first of its kind smart phone application called M-Urgency to help promote safety and increase productivity in emergency response.
The application, which is now available, automatically dials 911 when used and taps into the video and audio of the smart phone to allow the emergency officials to see what is happening at the scene in real time.
This was the type of technology needed to make emergency response more efficient, said University Police Chief David Mitchell.
“The next generation of 911 needs text, as well as video, capability to supplement, not replace, voice communication,” Mitchell said.
The application was a collaborative effort between campus police and the M.I.N.D. lab team, led by Dr. Ashok K. Agrawala.
The idea for the application occurred to Agrawala two years ago after then University President Dan Mote asked the community how they could improve campus safety.
“The question I posed to myself was what can we do, from the technology side, to improve the quality of life, and public safety is part of that,” Agrawala said.
Before the application, 911 calls made on campus would be received by the Prince George’s County Police, and then would be transferred to campus police.
The new application sends your GPS location and connects directly to campus police, which could save anywhere between 10 seconds to a few minutes in response time, which Mitchell said is vital.
“In emergency situations, every second counts,” Mitchell said.
The application also enables students to enter emergency information, such as their allergies, language spoken and family contact information, that would automatically show up to emergency responders.
University students, like senior architecture major Betsy Nolen, have some reservations about the new application.
“I think it might be slower than just calling 911,” Nolen said. “When an emergency happens my first instinct is to call 911, not find the application on my phone.”
Other students, like junior journalism major Aline Barros, believe something like this was needed.
“I think it’s amazing. I’m definitely going to download it and use it,” Barros said.
Agrawala is working on a GPS system that would tell responders exactly which floor and room the caller is on. He said this should be completed before the fall semester.
The application only works inside the geo-fence, which includes all of the main campus, Graduate Hills, Graduate Gardens, Courtyards, Leonardtown, and the houses behind Fraternity Row until the railroad tracks.
The city of College Park has expressed interest in expanding this geo-fence to allow more people to use the new application, Mitchell said.
University police also are testing another application called Escort-M.
The new application would be used when students felt unsafe walking on campus. Officials could watch them travel by tapping into their phone camera, as well as using their GPS location to tilt and pan the emergency cameras on campus to where they were walking.
Escort-M is in the testing stage. No word on when it will be available to the public.