App created to protect users
Pictured above is a chest of Queen Nedjmet. Late Twentieth Dynasty, c. 1087-1080 BC. It has come to NOMA from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photo Courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art
Loyola Student Affairs is currently negotiating with smartphone app developers to create a discreet and easy way to keep college students safe.
Secret Chaperone is a free-to- download, web and mobile-based discreet text message alert system that lets people know where you are, who you're with and how long you'll be there.
To use the app, a user makes a specific calendar event (e.g. "Date with Mr. Derp at Superior Grill, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and a list of emergency contacts. 15 minutes before the scheduled event ends, the user receives a default text asking if they're safe or not. If the user
doesn't respond, their emergency contacts get notified of the user's location and situation. The app is subscription-based.
The app's creator, Robin Hathaway, is a psychiatric homecare nurse in New Orleans, which she said often involves traveling to houses in unsafe neighborhoods. Even though she could call her boss for assistance, she wondered what would happen if she forgot her phone or couldn't call for help.
"There really needed to be some way to call for help without asking," Hathaway said. Raising three children also made her emphasize the importance of being safe and out of harm.
"It's really my mission to provide safety," she said. "Having this is taking a proactive approach to
Loyola builds scrap boats for night race personal safety."
After proposing the idea to local firm Idea Village, Hathaway made a deal with Bond Public Relations to create, run and promote the app. As a promotion, she gave a free year's membership to the Cabrini High School class of 2012.
Emily Reimsnyder, a representative of Bond Public Relations, said that the app was well received when it was tested at Tulane earlier this year. In one testimonial, according to Bond Public Relations, a user said that she would recommend using it for visiting unfamiliar parts of town.
Secret Chaperone does have 911 as a preset emergency contact, but the police can't expect to be a 24/7 chaperone.
According to Loyola Police
Captain Roger Pinac, the university is currently under negotiation with different companies trying to incorporate their own apps into student life. There's no way to know if Loyola will be able to respond to every single Secret Chaperone alert, he said, and having LUPD as an emergency contact might not always be practical.
"If you call us for assistance and you're in the French Quarter, we're not going to be able to help you when we get the call. We don't have that kind of manpower," Pinac said.
Hathaway said that the app is currently being negotiated upon with Student Affairs.
Alex Davis can be reached at email@example.com
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