Vanderbilt replaces SafeVU app with VandySafe to solve software problems and add additional features

Vanderbilt replaces SafeVU app with VandySafe to solve software problems and add additional features

Kelly McHale

SafeVU, which initially launched in 2015, expired this summer and has been replaced by VandySafe, an app that contains new features based on input from various departments on campus. One of the primary additions is a Virtual Walkhome option, which allows users to share their location with a dispatch officer who can then track their walk home and ensure safe arrival. Jessamyn Davis, Program Manager of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, was involved with the creation of VandySafe and highlighted the ease and utility of the Virtual Walkhome.

“Dispatch is basically just watching a little dot on a map moving,” Davis said. “It’s not a Facetime thing; they don’t see you and they see your information only to use if you need it in an emergency.”

Once the user has reached their destination, they simply indicate “safe arrival” on the app and their location stops being shared with dispatch. There is also a feature in the app for Friend Watch, which allows a friend to monitor the user’s location instead of a dispatch officer.

Many of the original features of SafeVU can also be found in the new app, such as emergency call and chat options. In addition to new location sharing components, VandySafe also contains maps of Vandy Vans, a campus map, a metro crime map, evacuation maps for residence halls and information about support resources such as Project Safe.

“We want to make a product that is just for our community members, so everyone between students, faculty, staff, as well as the Medical Center. We want something that’s just for you guys,” Davis said.

SafeVU had occasional technological glitches, and the decision was ultimately made to search for another vendor for a new safety app. Due to difficulty acquiring trademarking rights to the name SafeVU, the app was renamed VandySafe and made into a new app rather than an update to the old version.

Due to this, students who want access to the new features must download VandySafe because they won’t be available on SafeVU. While emergency calling will still work on the old version of the app, dispatch will no longer monitor the chat function. The full extent of new resources can be utilized only with VandySafe.

Davis encourages users to register when they download the app, which involves creating a password and inputting a name and phone number. With this information, VUPD is able to access more information about the user during emergency situations.

“We can use that information to find out more about you if we need to,” Davis said. “A phone number is really important in case you hang up or you’re not able to use the app and then we can call you back on your cell phone, and we use your first and last name to find out more information through our database.”

VandySafe already has more than 1,400 users and increases in downloads every day. At the end of SafeVU’s three year existence, there were a total of 6,665 users. As VandySafe continues to grow, Davis encourages student feedback regarding the app and any opportunities for potential new features users may identify.

“I want students to know that their safety is our priority and that they can reach out to us at all times for anything,” Davis said.