If you haven’t already downloaded Rave Guardian, you should

In Summer 2019, Carnegie Mellon added a new feature to its risk management approach, rolling out a new app, Rave Guardian, during first year orientation. Despite COVID-19 hitting just months later, sending students home and making risk management take a backseat in the face of new challenges like online learning, Rave Guardian has been a recommended download to every class of first year students since the roll-out. But what is Rave Guardian, and what can it do for student safety?

Frank Marcopolos and the Enterprise Risk Management team here at CMU took the time to answer some questions about Rave Guardian in a statement to The Tartan, providing more context on the app and how it’s used at Carnegie Mellon.

Even prior to Carnegie Mellon adopting Rave Guardian, there was a comprehensive risk management program in place on campus, most of it with behind the scenes support and actions from Carnegie Mellon risk staff. More visible elements include our campus police, blue dot system, and CMU-Alert system. The Enterprise team explains that “the biggest incentive to adding Rave Guardian was to provide students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to have access to an app on their mobile phones for multiple emergency communications purposes.” This was a way to take the existing online support and hotlines, and combine them in a singular location for easier access. Bruce Gerson of The Piper explains some of these connected resources, which include hotlines to University Police, UHS, CaPS, and the Employee Assistance Program, as well as links for the CMU escort service and CMU shuttle bus.

Hotlines aren’t the only useful feature on the app. Gerson furthers that users can create an emergency profile, and information such as their name and image can be sent to University Police along with their location when an emergency call is made, to make it easier for emergency response. The app even compliments the CMU-Alert system, enabling students to receive CMU-Alert notifications even when they don’t have cell service.

“We call it our ‘virtual buddy system,’" the Enterprise team explains. "The best way to describe it is if you are walking alone at night, the safety timer will allow you to set a timer for how long you think it will take you to get to your destination safely. If the timer expires, Rave Guardian will notify your pre-selected contacts or University Police.”

Of course, with any app containing location tracking software, students can expect to have questions pertaining to the privacy concerns.

Luckily, being the highly-ranked computer science university that Carnegie Mellon is, the app couldn’t have rolled out without thorough review. The Enterprise team echoes this sentiment, stating that “Privacy and security are important for any new technology being implemented.” Prior to Carnegie Mellon adopting this tool, Gerson explains, the Information Security Office ensured its security and safety, conducting “a complete examination of the app and how it stores information.” Not only was it satisfactory, but the methods to which information is shared are limited to ensure the app is non-invasive. Enterprise explains that the main use of location services are to send the location to the University Police at the time of the emergency call so that officers know where to go, clarifying that “Rave Guardian location information is only activated at that time and when the location settings are enabled on a user's smartphone.”

When downloading a new app, especially one with such capabilities, it’s ok to hesitate when it comes to privacy. But in the case of Rave Guardian, Carnegie Mellon really did their homework, and found an option that substantially increases their emergency response capabilities for crises in the real world, while also maintaining an incredibly safe environment for users in cyberspace.

When asked about app usage, Enterprise stressed that “If just one of these situations helped keep someone safe, then it is successful.” So the best way to benefit from this safety and success? Download the app.