Georgia Tech deployed a new service recently that officials say will improve emergency response when students, faculty and staff contact the campus police department from their cellphones. With the service, a caller’s profile, including his or her photo and other identify information, is sent to the police instantaneously.

The university is using “Jacket Guardian” — a free service named after the school’s mascot that allows users to make an emergency call directly to the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD). The department can pinpoint the location of people calling from a cellphone or smartphone by using the devices’ built-in GPS.

The opt-in service lets users develop profiles that provide critical information about themselves, such as their home address, medical conditions, vehicle information and a photo, according to Rave Mobile Safety, the Framingham, Mass.-based vendor that developed the technology.

GTPD Capt. Randy Barrone said the profiles can help the police more efficiently respond to 911 calls, particularly if a caller becomes incapacitated or goes unconscious. Information from the profile is only accessible to the police officers once a 911 call has been made, and cannot be accessed otherwise.

The profiles developed through the Jacket Guardian system also appears for any call sent to a 911 call center that accepts the Smart911 service developed by the vendor.

Barrone said that when users register for the service, they’re given two phone numbers — one that is set as a panic number in the speed dial feature of their cellphone so that it will immediately notify campus police and forward their profile information to the department’s communication center. Officers located either in the call center or out in the field can then pull up the information on a computer or smartphone.

“Even officers in the field can actually see a picture of what this person looks like and where exactly they’re located by using the GPS on their phone, as well as if they have some medical condition: diabetes or allergic reactions,” Barrone said. “If they just fell over, we at least immediately would have that information available to us.”

Barrone said the second number uses an escort timer feature. When a user calls the second number, an automated system asks the caller to enter the amount of time it will take to complete a specific activity. The caller is then prompted to leave a voice message stating the exact starting and finishing locations of the route they intend to travel, a clothing description, how many are in the party and any other indicators that could help police in the event of an emergency.

Two minutes before the time that’s entered expires, the system will notify the caller to remind him or her to deactivate the timer before it goes off, Barrone said. If the timer goes off before it’s deactivated, the information given by the caller will be sent to the police department’s communication center.

Barrone said currently just more than 3,500 of the nearly 19,000 people enrolled or working at Georgia Tech have opted into the service. The police department is hoping for a 100 percent participation level. Costs to implement the service were not available at press time.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.