The new HawkWatch system offers enhanced communication capabilities and a free personal safety app.
Lehigh University is in the process of transitioning from the LU-Alert system, which has been in place for the past 10 years, to a new emergency communications system custom-designed for the campus community. The new HawkWatch system represents a significant enhancement of the niversity’s emergency communications system and offers a range of personal safety options.
Over the past several months, a small team of staff representing the Lehigh University Police Department; Library and Technology Services; Risk Management; and University Communications and Public Affairs evaluated a wide variety of programs that offered enhanced emergency communication capabilities, as well as a personal safety app option that allows for greater connectivity with university resources in emergency situations.
“The AppArmor system offered us the best combination of features that will work for the Lehigh community,” said LUPD Assistant Chief Chris Houtz. “By downloading the app onto their smartphone, any member of the campus community can access our dispatcher. It’s like a blue light in the palm of your hand.”
The app also provides quick and easy access to useful information in emergency situations, and allows users to quickly access emergency contacts and support resources, employ a “virtual walk home” tool, track Lehigh buses, receive severe weather alerts, report a tip, and view a campus map.
All members of the campus community will be automatically enrolled to receive HawkWatch alerts, which are deployed only in instances where there is an imminent threat, or a change in the University’s operations, such as delayed openings or closings due to severe winter weather.
The HawkWatch personal safety app is offered as a free option, but there is no obligation to download. Two of the features–the mobile bluelight and the virtual walk home–are only operational within the geofence area designated by the LUPD, which includes all three Lehigh campuses, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods where many Lehigh students live. All of the other features are accessible from any part of the globe.
Others beyond the campus community, such as parents of students or members of the local community, can receive the emergency messages the university shares by texting “Lehigh” to 237233. To un-enroll, they can text “Stop” to that same number.
“We really hope that our entire campus community considers utilizing this important new resource,” said LUPD Chief Jason Schiffer. “We will be talking about it with our new students and helping to promote it at the upcoming Community Expo on Aug. 27 and at the university’s Health and Safety Fair on Sept. 13. We want the students, in particular, to take advantage of this resource if they find themselves in situations where they feel unsafe, or if they just want to connect with our dispatchers. That’s what we are here for.”
Adds Joe Sterrett, the Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics and chair of Lehigh’s Crisis Management Team: “Lehigh’s Crisis Management Team, the LUPD and many other offices are focused on safety, and are continually evaluating our policies and procedures and assessing our preparedness for any number of emergency scenarios. We recognize that in any crisis situation, communication is a key element, and this new HawkWatch system significantly improves our ability to convey important information at critical times, and provides members of our community with more resources for staying safe.”
The university will be testing the communications tool in the upcoming weeks. Individuals with questions or concerns can direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.