New personal e-alarms can enhance safety, even at UWRF, chief says

Posted September 18, 2017

Miranda Haack is an elementary education major in her junior year at UW-River Falls, and she said that she carries a whistle at all times and often travels with others who carry pepper spray.

“I try to stay in groups whenever possible whenever I’m going out at night,” she said, adding that River Falls seems relatively safe to her. “There are usually people around who, if I just yelled, would hear me.”

But what if no one were around who could hear her – or if an attacker prevented her from yelling?

“There’s only so much capacity that our voices have,” said Mya Paplou, public relations director for the BASU company, which is marketing a new personal safety device designed to deter muggers.

The device, called an eAlarm, is a small, USB-sized item that can be clipped like a keychain to a person’s backpack, belt loop, etc. It consists of a black “pin” that can be pulled from the rectangular body of the device, which activates a shrill, trilling alarm comparable in volume to an ambulance siren (120 decibels).

The intention behind the device, Paplou said, is to startle potential assailants and prompt them to run away out of fear of being noticed. The advantage, she said, is that the device is easy to use, nonviolent and much louder than a human voice.

The eAlarm is but one of many technological advancements in personal safety that have hit the market in recent years, UW-River Falls Police Chief Karl Fleury said. Numerous keychain panic buttons similar to the eAlarm can be found for sale simply by searching the internet for “personal safety alarms.”

There are also many apps that are designed to send out distress signals to a pre-selected contact lists at the push of a button, many of which GPS track users and notify their contact list when they arrive at their destination safely. A handful of examples on the market are called bsafe, React Mobile and Companion.

The real trick to personal safety, Fleury said, is being smart and prepared when walking out the door for a night out.

“A lot of it is being aware of your surroundings and not putting yourself into situations that might be more dangerous than others,” Fleury said.

Staying in well-lit areas, he said, is a smart move when wandering about at night. Traveling in groups is another deterrent to potential crime, and it’s a very good idea to let others know your schedule for the evening in case you do not make it to your destination. Mentally planning what you will do in the case of an assault can also help in the heat of the moment, he said.

Garrett Anderson is a freshman in marketing communication, and he agrees with Haack that UW-River Falls appears to be a relatively safe campus.

“If I were in a bigger city like Minneapolis, I might take a little more consideration into it,” Anderson said. “I personally do not carry (a safety device), and I definitely think they’re effective. I wouldn’t mess with someone with pepper spray or a mini-Taser or anything like that.”

The Annual Security and Fire Safety Report largely supports Haack and Anderson’s opinion that UWRF is a relatively safe campus. The report shows zero cases of robbery or aggravated assault for the 2016-2017 year. Fleury cautions, however, that even a quiet-seeming campus is not completely safe from crime.

“A crime can happen anywhere, anyplace, anytime,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small town USA or if… you’re in the Twin Cities. We’re not immune to it.”