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Spots still open in Undergraduate Student Government-sponsored safety app pilot program

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Peter Cahill is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds. He will never forget the feeling of being scared.

Cahill remembers the feeling of walking across a college campus, the University of Tennessee, at night and having to walk down dark roads on his way home.

“You are scared because you don’t know what will happen,” said Cahill, founder of LifeLine Response and LifeLine EDU.

That’s part of why he started his company.

“If you have LifeLine EDU, you will have a little bit more sense of empowerment,” Cahill said.

LifeLine EDU is a personal safety smartphone application for students and faculty, similar to having a campus emergency blue light, which are located around OSU’s campus and have phones providing a direct line to University Police in case of an emergency, on their phones, said Undergraduate Student Government senior adviser Matt Deptola, a fourth-year in public affairs.

Five hundred students and faculty members will have a chance to try out LifeLine EDU this year due to a USG pilot program that started Sept. 16.

LifeLine EDU is available at other universities as well, including the University of Toledo, which purchased subscriptions for all of their students and faculty this year, Cahill said.

The LifeLine Response app costs $8.99 on iTunes with a $7.99 cost for a one-year subscription of the service.

He said Toledo paid $40,000 for its students and medical center staff to use the app, but was unable to disclose the amount USG paid because it was confidential.

Amy Barnes, a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Ecology, is participating in the USG pilot program in order to help share the application with students.

“I work with a lot of undergraduate students through my work as a faculty member, but also I advise a couple of student organizations… I personally do worry about some of my students walking at night alone because I know they do it,” Barnes said. “If it’s something that I feel works well, and is a good investment on part of the university, then I would definitely share it with all the students I work with.”

Barnes said the application is also useful to faculty members as well as they walk back to their cars after teaching or working late in the evening.

“There are faculty members that are here late,” Barnes said. “There are classes offered in the evening all over campus, so I know there are faculty who stay late at the university. I think some probably stay late to do work and attend meetings so… it could benefit faculty as well.”

As of Monday night, there were approximately 200 spots that had not yet been filled and USG will continue to accept applications until Oct. 1, USG Vice President Josh Ahart said.

Ahart has downloaded and used LifeLine EDU and said it helped him feel safer.

“This app is a great way to proactively increase the safety on- and off-campus,” Ahart, a fourth-year in public affairs, said. “There is a test phase for the app, but actually, I messed up and didn’t put in my passcode. They actually called me to see if I was OK… I used it last night when I was walking home. It makes you feel a little bit safer.”

LifeLine EDU has had some false alarms. They have been minimal, however, Cahill said.

“There are going to be false alarms,” Cahill said. “We have received a .00002 percent of false alarms… we don’t really have a lot of false alarms.”

Cahill expects false alarms in the future, but if these false alarms are found to be someone abusing the system, he said the user could be fined by the police.

“Although that we think that they are going to happen… you can’t accidentally trigger our alarm,” Cahill said. “You literally have to hold your finger down, and launch the application.”

Cahill decided to create LifeLine Response after his nieces were victims of an attempted abduction in 2011.

“I said at that point, I have to be able to make a difference in the lives of these people … I think I have the potential to stop more than just abductions, but I also can stop rape and date rape,” Cahill said.

Cahill also said the app has saved four lives since it launched.

Cahill created LifeLine as a personal safety application that anyone could use, but also decided to start LifeLine EDU, an app marketed specifically toward college students, in February.

“Institutions have a federal mandate to look out for the best interests of their students, and to keep them safe,” Cahill said.

Will Hinman, a first-year in political science, said he has not downloaded the application because he thinks it’s more beneficial for female students.

“I feel like it is more relevant to females, especially if they are coming home from parties alone,” Hinman said. “I, unfortunately, think that they are more susceptible to attacks or assault.”

Hinman said the safety measures OSU has taken on-campus are enough for him to feel safe.

“Being on-campus, I feel a lot safer than being off-campus,” Hinman said. “There are usually a lot of people around on campus. I feel like the blue light phones may not always be an adequate safety measure, but for me at least, the blue lights are enough to make me feel safe on campus.”

LifeLine EDU has two modes, a thumb mode which the majority of users will use because it is designed for activities lasting less than 16 minutes, and a timer mode for longer activities lasting up to 90 minutes, Deptola said.

In the thumb mode, the user presses his or her thumb on the screen of their iPhone or Android. If his or her thumb is released from the screen for 13 seconds, an alarm sounds and the app prompts for a four-digit passcode, Deptola said.

Users then either enter a code to disarm the alarm or an emergency passcode, Deptola said.

If an emergency passcode is entered, LifeLine EDU call center will call the phone and ensure an emergency is taking place before dispatching help, Deptola said.

If neither passcode is entered, emergency services will use the phone’s GPS location to find the user, while LifeLine EDU texts and emails three preset emergency contacts, including a map of the phone’s location with the messages, Deptola said.

The timer mode is meant for activities like jogging or doing something for an extended period of time where the user can’t hold his or her finger on the phone. After the preset amount of time runs out, the alarm goes off and the user is prompted to enter either the emergency passcode or the disarming code.

Ahart said students should take advantage of the free pilot program.

“It’s definitely something worth paying for, for all students,” Ahart said. “This pilot program is completely free to sign up for… and download the application for free. I personally did not know about the app before, had I known about something like this, it would have been a great application to have.”

USG would be interested in expanding the LifeLine EDU program for next year if it receives positive feedback from students and faculty, Deptola said.

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