The University of Florida campus in Gainesville looked brighter and felt safer for those who returned this spring.
UF recently completed a series of security enhancements to the campus, which include the addition of surveillance cameras and the conversion of nearly 60% of pole-mounted lights to brighter and more energy-efficient LED technology.
The improvements include the addition of more security cameras across campus and electronic access control to buildings and offices. They are part of a project approved in June 2019 by the UF Board of Trustees as part of the Campus Safety Plan, which calls for immediate and long-term enhancements to UF’s grounds as part of the institution’s commitment to making the areas on and surrounding campus safe for all.
“Providing the best quality of life for our students is one of our top priorities,” said Heather White, vice president for student life. “Making the campus easier to navigate and a safer environment for all will bolster the learning experience.”
As of December, 2,434 exterior lights along sidewalks, walkways, roadways and parking lots on campus have been upgraded to LED. Also, light poles and lights have been added to areas that the university’s security team identified as needing more illumination, such as the parking lot behind the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
Beyond being brighter, LED lights reflect colors that are true and more vivid, said Mark Helms, assistant vice president of the Facilities Services Division and Sustainability. As the project continues, University of Florida Police Department officers are working to identify new areas that may need more lighting.
Additionally, the university has added or upgraded video surveillance cameras that offer better video quality, totaling 1,700 cameras across campus. The cameras, which have been placed at entrances, critical facilities and areas with high pedestrian traffic, function as a crime deterrent and could be used to identify unwanted or illegal activity.
In the immediate future, the university will add about 200 cameras. Long term, university officials are aiming to add as many as 3,000 cameras campuswide.
“These changes improve the campus’ safety infrastructure and ensure the university is following established, industry-standard security and safety practices,” said Curtis Reynolds, vice president for business affairs.
Added Safety at Your Fingertips
Meanwhile, UF recently unveiled a new feature on its official safety app that can automatically call a preferred emergency contact if a user fails to check in within a certain time.
This new “Work/Study Alone” feature of the GatorSafe app is designed for students, faculty and staff whose studies or duties are often performed in isolation and is part of the university’s continued effort to address the safety of the campus community.
The feature, which may be used on or off campus, will periodically send the user a notification asking them to check in. If a user fails to check in within five minutes, the GatorSafe app will call the number of the person listed as the user’s emergency contact.
“Unlike other services that require the person to remain engaged throughout periods of isolation, this added feature ensures that someone will be notified even if the app user is unable to,” said Ed Posey, associate director of administrative services at UFPD.
The work/study alone feature joins a roster of safety-related applications or tools available for the campus community, which include the ability to allow friends to track a phone’s location during a walk and trigger a fake phone call or text, allowing the phone user to exit an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation.