Aston University rolls-out unified SafeZone protection and assistance solution for staff and students

Aston University’s management team in Birmingham is transforming security and safety with the introduction of SafeZone for students and staff on campus and those travelling globally. The solution devised by CriticalArc will put users directly in touch with the university’s Security Control Room by using their mobile phone, enabling them to request help, trigger an emergency response, receive rapid notifications in the event of emergencies and benefit from a wide range of customer care services.

SafeZone was selected following a detailed comparison of alternative systems. Mark Sutton, head of security and emergency planning at Aston University, explained: “While some alternatives offered individual features that were attractive, none of them combined all the functions and benefits in the way that SafeZone does. What we’re investing in here is a comprehensive solution that allows our security team to engage much more closely with students and staff and to work in a more integrated way with the university’s various departments and within its senior management structure. It also gives us important additional functions including lone worker protection and resource management capabilities.”

The technology works by letting Aston University’s Security Control Room operators pinpoint the locations of individuals including staff, students, service users and members of the security team itself who elect to check-in using a simple app on their smart phones. This app makes it easy for students and staff using the system to communicate directly with security responders, calling for help, asking for advice or reporting suspicious activity, etc. In return, security teams can send out alerts and safety instructions to groups or individuals in specific locations as individuals or by specified user type. Notifications sent can range from helpful advice through to alerts regarding specific threats.

Monitoring activity patterns

Officers responsible for emergency response management can also monitor the activity patterns of those who choose to check-in, seeing where people are gathering during an incident, for example. They can co-ordinate resources, keeping track of where known First Aiders are, or seeing exactly how team members are deployed minute-by-minute.

The benefits of SafeZone bring together features found in an assortment of systems – including lone worker protection – making them available in a unified and scaleable package. There are also new options for users to collaborate with the growing global network of SafeZone system operators.

At Aston University, stakeholders such as the Students’ Union, staff and department heads have been fully engaged in the roll-out of the new system.

“Safety is a big issue, and particularly so for city centre campuses,” added Sutton. “Prospective students and parents want to know how well we look after our community, so we see SafeZone as an important new benefit.”

Placements programme

Darren Chalmers-Stevens

Darren Chalmers-Stevens

Aston University also has a growing international reputation and a significant placements programme, with students and staff travelling around the world to work. With the ability to ‘geo-fence’ any location in the world that has a signal, Aston University’s security team will now extend the same level of customer care and safety monitoring to all users, whether they’re on campus, in accommodation blocks or at associated sites around the city or, indeed, working abroad.

Darren Chalmers-Stevens, managing director (EMEA and APAC) at CriticalArc, observed: “We’re delighted to be working with Aston University’s security and emergency response team to help them provide the best available monitoring and protection for all their people, in all situations and wherever they happen to be. In addition, they’re benefiting from a wide set of extra functions which would otherwise have to be purchased separately, including lone worker protection and Health and Safety compliance.”

There are also important emerging benefits which CriticalArc is developing alongside its community of users. These were discussed during the recent two-day User Group Conference in February.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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