Assistant Editor, SHP & IFSEC Global

December 1, 2021

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Safe cities

‘We’ve got the right people, we’ve got the right technology, now, let’s put them together and look after our students’ – Collaborative campus safety in Manchester

After three Greater Manchester universities pioneered the UK’s first city-wide safety and response initiative using digital technology from CriticalArc’s SafeZone, SHP speaks to Trevor Jones, Head of Security at the University of Salford about how the app is being received by students and staff, and to Chief Operating Officer at CriticalArc, Darren Chalmers-Stevens, regarding the company’s plans for the expansion of the solution.  

Trevor Jones, University of Salford

Darren Chalmers-Stevens, CriticalArc

CriticalArc’s SafeZone is currently being used by a trio of Manchester universities to enable the three security control rooms to extend the footprint of 24/7 support for student safety beyond campus boundaries.

With the formation of the Manchester SafeZone Alliance, a global first for institutions, security staff from each campus can provide reciprocal support to each other’s staff and students in an instant.

In the event of an emergency, individuals can use the SafeZone app to quickly connect to the appropriate safety and security team or first responder.

Darren, who has been at CriticalArc nearly eight years, is responsible for driving customer success and sales operations on a global scale.

He defines SafeZone as, “a safety, security, wellbeing and emergency management solution that provides organisations with the ability to provide safety everywhere”. Darren also describes the cloud-based solution as a cooperative aid to the emergency services – rather than a replacement.

“If you were walking across campus and saw someone collapsed on the floor, would you call an ambulance, which could take some time to arrive, or would you use the SafeZone app to call a trained security or safety responder who could assist you immediately?” he explains.

Head of Security at Salford University, Trevor Jones, is confident that, in the long-term, the app will succeed in increasing the universities safeguarding capabilities. Though the software is still in the early stages of implementation, Trevor claims the launch is already being greeted with delight by both senior members of staff and students alike.

He also discusses the unexpected role SafeZone has played in keeping students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The university bought SafeZone just as the pandemic hit. At the beginning of this year, we enforced the rule that students were not allowed on campus without checking into SafeZone. This was crucial in allowing us to be aware of how many people were on site at one time.

“We have also made it mandatory for anyone travelling from the University of Salford out of the UK to download the app before leaving.”

The uses of SafeZone continue to evolve and Darren is enthusiastic to discuss potential prospects for the future of the technology.

“Our objective is to continue to promote ‘safety everywhere’ on a broader spectrum. We want people to be able to travel with the knowledge that, wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, SafeZone continues to help ensure their safety.”


Safeguard individuals

Using Leeds as an example, Darren explains how the SafeZone app could be used to safeguard individuals from college straight through to their professional career.

In practice, a student could start using the SafeZone app in Leeds City College, continue using it throughout their time at Leeds University, and then carry it over into a full-time career at Leeds General Infirmary – a revolutionary concept in the world of safety.

CriticalArc also plans to continue to develop the use of the technology as a wellbeing tool, evolving to meet the growing needs of customers.

Darren argues that: “University wellbeing services often can’t cater to student demand as they only operate on a 9-5 basis. The SafeZone app could definitely be used to fill that void.”

Salford University is already channelling this vision through the use of its ‘health and wellbeing area’. By clicking a designated button on the SafeZone app, students in crisis can immediately access relevant help and support, a crucial tool in saving lives.

A person’s teenage years are often considered the most difficult, engulfed in societal pressures and a flailing sense of identity, and yet, poor mental health amongst young people is often brushed off as simply ‘a phase’ one is yet to outgrow.

Both Darren and Trevor are passionate about promoting the need to safeguard not only student’s physical health, but their mental wellbeing to an equal standard.

Darren is confident that, soon, SafeZone will become ‘a part of the solution’ for the majority of universities across the country, manifesting into a clear signpost for prospective students as to whether an institution values safety and security as a top priority.

Trevor concludes: “We’ve got the right people, we’ve got the right technology, now, let’s put them all together and look after our students in the manner they deserve to be looked after – the manner we would want our own children to be looked after.”

This article was originally published on our sister site, IFSEC Global.

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