Environmental Health and Safety at Texas A&M Health Science Center

Mobile Emergency Preparedness
University Business, August 2013
Texas A&M Health Science Center

Texas A&M Health Science Center is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of its faculty, staff, and students on eight campuses. Educating and informing the community regarding how to best respond to emergency situations—such as chemical spills, man-made emergencies, or natural disasters—was historically done through printed materials and the center’s website.

However, Clay Hanks, director of campus operations, and his team recognized that access to this critical information was difficult or cumbersome during an emergency. Emergency preparedness information was meant to be “grab and go”—a quick reference—but print materials weren’t convenient. The team wanted to find a way to make the instructions provided in the flip charts, booklets, and website portable, so the information would be available 24/7.

In October 2012, members of the Environmental Health and Safety department, which included Hanks, John Fellers, Erich Fruchtnicht, and Leslie Lutz, began talking about developing a mobile app that would give campus community members instant access to emergency instructions and information through their phones. Fruchtnicht and Lutz became in-house designers, and started work in November. Two months later, the app was ready.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center (HSC) eduSafe app is free to download through iTunes and Google Play and works on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. The app provides immediate access to important information, and is a central starting point for a number of related activities, such as appealing parking tickets, registering an on-campus lab, and ordering radiological materials.

“We’ve taken a lot of information that faculty and staff would have to search for and put it into the app so they can get to it quickly,” says Hanks. “It saves time on tasks.” The app consists of nine modules: 1) one-button access to a safety and security contact on any HSC campus, 2) immediate access to emergency procedures even when offline, 3) the ability to report a hazard or concern, 4) instructions regarding disseminating information during emergencies, 5) instant access to the Clery Act annual security report, including statistics for any HSC campus, 6) request an escort from the security office from anywhere on campus, 7) purchase parking hangtags, or appeal or pay a citation, 8) access rules, procedures, forms, registration information related to lab safety and research compliance, and order radiological materials, and 9) links to CDC, FEMA, and HSC security websites. New students will be trained in its use during orientation.

In addition to putting safety and security information in one place, the app has also saved the cost of print materials, travel, information sessions, and information updates, roughly $35,000 a year. Savings from labor costs for the annual time devoted to safety and security information sessions are an additional $135,000.

The app has been so successful that the Texas A&M University System Office of Technology created a startup venture, named m2s3 Holdings, Inc., to facilitate commercialization of the app. HSC owns 20 percent of the equity in the company and is entitled to 37.5 percent of the royalties, which is expected to generate an additional $250,000 over the next five years. The app is a proactive approach to improving the safety and security of everyone on campus, Hanks says.

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