Campus Life, Crime and Safety, News

UMPD Safety Fair showcases UGuardian app, promotes education

The "Put It Down" Campaign, during Thursday's Annual Safety Fair, promoted awareness of the consequences of texting while driving. Students also had the opportunity to walk on a line with "drunk" goggles that simulate the vision impairment that comes with drinking while driving. Shreya Chidarala // Staff Photographer

The “Put It Down” Campaign, during Thursday’s Annual Safety Fair, promoted awareness of the consequences of texting while driving. Students also had the opportunity to walk on a line with “drunk” goggles that simulate the vision impairment that comes with drinking while driving. Shreya Chidarala // Staff Photographer

The University of Miami Police Department’s (UMPD) annual Safety Fair took over the Rock on Thursday afternoon and brought together a variety of educational resources for students, faculty and staff.

This year’s fair was unique because it generated awareness for UMPD’s new UGuardian app. The free app, available for iOS and Android devices, allows users to call UMPD or 911 with the touch of a button, input optional personal information, activate location services to allow the police department to locate you and, most importantly, connect with people via the app to establish virtual safety escorts.

“This is a community initiative where you can connect with friends or ‘guardians’ through the app and they can watch you as you travel from one point to another one,” said John Gulla, UMPD’s Crime Prevention Specialist. “The idea is to keep people safe by watching over each other’s back. UMPD still offers 24/7 security escorts, but this is another easy option for students who, for example, leave Richter library at 2 a.m. after studying for a final.”

As well as promoting UGuardian, UMPD showcased its partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in advocating their Put it Down Campaign, which aims to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and, particularly, texting while driving.

“FDOT has been partnering with the University of Miami for over five years to address traffic safety concerns in the community,” said Carlos Sarmiento, Community Traffic Safety Program coordinator for FDOT. “I think people are slowly starting to change their habits, but with this campaign as a constant reminder and with the partnership that we have with other agencies, we have the opportunity to address other traffic safety concerns as well. It definitely helps to address this to the younger drivers who are beginning to drive and still haven’t mastered the one thing that is really driving, let alone trying to multitask. But in reality, this affects everyone who drives, young and old.”

Between now and mid-November, FDOT will be touring college campuses and high schools in Miami-Dade County and Monroe County to disseminate education for the prevention of distracted driving.

Now in its fifth year, the UMPD Safety Fair has grown over the years to incorporate new community partners and on-campus initiatives.

“Over the years we have been able to grow the amount of resources that come from outside of campus and bring them here so students can be aware of it,” said Gulla. “For instance, this year we have the Roxy Bolton Rape Treatment Center, and they are teaming up with the It’s On Us Campaign on campus for education on sexual assault. We also have the Miami-Dade Police County bus on Stanford Circle and it has a bunch on information regarding home security. We do have commuter students and faculty and staff that live off campus, so these are some new resources that we hadn’t incorporated in previous years.”

The It’s On Us Campaign began as an effort by the president’s coalition for sexual violence prevention education, and a decision to attach themselves to the White House’s national campaign on the same matter. The idea is to create an all-incorporating information drive to make students aware of all the resources UM offers.

“It’s really an effort to spread the word about preventing sexual violence,” said Dean Tony Lake, who is helping spearhead the initiative. “The university has some great tools available here and this is going to be a way for us to share those tools and resources a little bit more easily. We had PSAs play on the football buses and on the game for the first game and we are planning on doing more. We are different in that we really don’t need to be our own table, but you will see us around at different events handing out resources to make people aware.”

Other organizations present at the event included Pier 21, UM’s drug and alcohol education center, and the Office of Emergency Management, which distributed starter emergency kits to all attendees. From attempting to walk on a straight line while wearing fatal vision beer goggles to learning about bicycle laws, attendees had an all-encompassing safety education experience.

Correction, Sept. 12, 2015: The article originally labeled an organization as “Emergency Management Department,” which is incorrect. The correct name is “Office of Emergency Management.”

September 11, 2015


Sophie Barros

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