In Case of Crisis app keeps Mason prepared

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

As safety and emergency planning becomes an increasing concern for college campuses across the country, George Mason University’s Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS) has partnered with “In Case of Crisis,” to provide a free app to the university community. The app is available for Android and Apple smartphones and puts the university’s emergency preparedness plans in your pocket.

With large, bright icons and a user-friendly interface, the app is incredibly handy as a teaching preparedness tool, providing important information about how to prepare and respond to emergencies.

“We need you to be prepared in advance,” says Dave Farris, director of emergency management and fire safety. “The idea is for people to become familiar with the plans before they need them.”

Farris stresses that the app is not a replacement for MasonAlert, which notifies students, faculty, and staff of emergency by phone, e-mail or text depending on their selections. “In Case of Crisis” does feature a menu that allows users to connect to MasonAlert so they can register cell phones and modify account settings.

Because the emergency plans are downloaded directly onto the phone, they are available even if cellular service is disrupted. “That was really important to us,” says Farris. “We want to make sure our community has access to this resource at all times.”

The available material on the app mirrors information about emergency situations already available via emergency.gmu.edu and the “emergency preparedness guide” flipbook produced by EHS, but the information is presented in a more concise and accessible manner. By selecting any of the emergency “events,” the application opens up the university response plan for each type of emergency. From there, finding the appropriate university resources, from names to phone numbers, is just a tap away.

Events include:

  • bomb threat
  • disability
  • earthquake
  • evacuation
  • fire
  • hazmat
  • medical
  • missing person
  • regional emergency
  • utility failure
  • violence
  • severe weather

Based on an idea George Mason provided to the developer, Irving Burton Associates (IBA, inc.), there are directions to local hospitals through the phone’s map app. While it is one of the few features that requires mobile service, it provides quick and important information. “We wanted the app to be thorough, but manageable in an emergency,” says Farris.

The camaraderie of universities trying to ensure the safety of their students has brought a new level of dialogue between campus safety officers and the app developers at IBA, inc., with Mason at the forefront of providing ideas for the improvements, such as adding a siren and flashlight.

More improvements may come soon. The ability to report the location of emergencies to university police and plans specific to faculty or students studying abroad may make the app even more valuable. www.incaseofcrisis.com