Office of Safety and Security Considers Modern Personal Safety Technology

The Office of Safety and Security is currently testing Ripple, a personal security device, with a select number of students and Resident Assistants making emergency call boxes a thing of the past. 

About the size of a Scrabble tile, Ripple is a small, discrete, wearable button with bluetooth connectivity and GPS. If clicked once, a Ripple dispatcher will call the user’s cell phone. This  could be used if a student wants to stay on the line with someone while they walk alone at night.

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Ripple device on Smith’s keychain.

If Ripple is clicked three times it indicates an immediate emergency situation, and emergency vehicles will be sent to the user’s location.

Users can customize their Ripple settings to include a photo, medical information, and specify what kind of emergency vehicle they’d like dispatched in an emergency situation. 

Brian Dolansky, Associate Director of Safety and Security, reports the students testing Ripple are “using it more than they ever used an emergency call box.” 

Resident Assistant Owen Smith has been testing Ripple since August and thinks the new technology is “a great idea. Just having Ripple makes everyone feel a little safer, even if we don’t actively use it.”

The potential implementation of Ripple comes at a time when Marist students are assessing their personal safety. In the spring of 2018 senior Samantha Hesler conducted an anonymous sexual assault awareness survey in which she asked, “Is there any place on campus where you feel unsafe? Why?” Out of the out of the 108 survey responses Hesler received, six cite they feel unsafe because of a lack of emergency call boxes, frequently known as blue lights.

On campus there are 27 emergency call boxes total—19 on the east side and 8 on the west. Hesler believes, “If you’re going to have a blue light system, you need to have it across campus. You can’t half-ass the blue light system.” 

Dolansky reasons the number imbalance, “Probably had to do with the evolution of the college…there are more on the residential side because that’s where most students are at night.”

According to data gathered by the Marist Office of Safety and Security, the emergency call boxes were activated 28 times between 2012 and 2017. Of those 28 calls, only three were students asking to be escorted home by security. Five were people requesting a jump start or other car  assistance. 

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years and call boxes rarely get used,” says Dolansky, “If something isn’t being used, it’s hard to justify keeping it. But on the flip side, you can’t put a value on potentially saving someone’s life.”

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Emergency call box near underpass

Deb DiCaprio, Vice President/Dean of Student Affairs, says Ripple is, “a much better way to go in terms of personal safety. We can only guess where blue lights should be. If someone gets in trouble in one spot and we put a blue light there, someone else will get in trouble in another spot. Students can use Ripple when and where they need it, they don’t need to look around for a blue light to get help.” 

“There’s no one safety solution, no one technology, so we’re overlapping technologies by keeping the call boxes but testing Ripple,” says Dolansky, “The future of Marist security is not a static thing. We’re always looking for ways to improve and protect our students.” 

The Office of Safety and Security is not currently planning to remove emergency call boxes. 

 

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Historic Walkway Undergoes Renovations

The Walkway Over the Hudson has served as a popular attraction for both tourists and locals since its opening in 2009 as a State Historic Park. Today, the site is undergoing changes to ensure parkgoers have an even more positive experience.

The walkway’s nearly 600,000 visitors have been asked to pardon its appearance as construction on a Dutchess Welcome Center and a new elevator has begun.

Located near the parking lot, the 1,800-square-foot Dutchess Welcome Center is set to include amenities such as an outdoor patio, a dog-friendly water fountain, bike racks, and bathrooms, according to an article from The Poughkeepsie Journal. A new staircase will also be added to give visitors access to the walkway from Orchard Place.

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Images with the design of the new welcome center is posted on the fence outside of the construction site

The addition of a welcome center on the Dutchess side follows the unveiling of a similar center in Ulster County in June.

 

Many individuals, especially older visitors, have expressed a great deal of excitement towards the new bathrooms. Prior to construction, people could only utilize portable toilets set up near the parking lot.

Aside from bathrooms, visitors also expressed that they would like to see an additional concession stand providing snacks, light fare, and water incorporated into the welcome center.

“I just think overall it’s a good concept that they’re trying to provide better facilities for people because this is an attraction,” stated Matt Kravits, a Somers, NY resident.

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The new Dutchess Welcome Center is currently under construction and is set to open in the spring of 2019

Construction on the welcome center began in April, as stated by one of the walkway’s ambassadors, and is set to be completed by spring 2019 prior to the park’s 10th anniversary.

 

Currently, the welcome center appears to be in its initial phases of construction. Cinder block walls have been resurrected, and the structure is encased along with construction equipment by a chain-link fence. A sign posted on the fence provides visitors with images of the future site in addition to information on what to expect.

The materials and equipment being used for the construction site itself are being stored in areas that serve as parking spaces. Approximately 36 parking spaces, included those designated for handicapped individuals, seem to be taken up by the activity.

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Construction materials can be seen taking up several parking spaces

According to the walkway’s ambassadors, however, there have been no complaints concerning less parking spaces available. Additionally, the Walkway Over the Hudson is offering free parking in the lots due to the ongoing project.

 

In addition to the welcome center, the Walkway Over the Hudson will also debut an improved elevator system by the spring.

The new elevator will rely on an “encased energy chain upgrade,” which will replace the wireless-based communication system. The wireless-based system was discovered to be sensitive to the changing weather conditions of the region, as reported by the Mid Hudson Valley Patch. This energy chain system is anticipated to extend seasonal usage and improve reliability.

While construction on this project has not begun yet, the elevator remains closed to visitors until the construction is completed. Signs explaining the closure are posted at both the Dutchess and Ulster sides of the walkway along with a phone number to inquire about the elevator’s status.

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Signs warning of the elevator’s closure are located at both ends of the walkway

 

“I think they should definitely prioritize having the elevator accessible sooner than later,” shared Sue Kravits, a New York resident visiting with her husband, Matt. “I believe that it just opens it up to people that have disabilities and can’t access it another way, and that just would be a really goodwill sort of thing to do for the community and for those that want to use it.”

In regards to both the elevator and the welcome center, John Fila, another visitor from Greenwood Lake, NY, said, “I think anything they could do to make more parks and stuff more friendly for more people to enjoy, the better off [it] is.”