UW-Green Bay testing safety app for students abroad

Published: Aug. 17, 2017 at 10:12 PM CDT
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A terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday left 13 people dead and dozens injured. At about 5:30 p.m. Barcelona time, a van jumped the curb and drove through crowds along the broad street in the Las Ramblas district, a popular spot for tourists.

With Spain being a popular destination for travelers of any age, Action 2 News checked with local universities about how they're keeping Study Abroad students safe.

UW-Green Bay is testing a new safety app for future Study Abroad students.

UWGB's Study Abroad coordinator, Jemma Lund, was just a few blocks away from the attack.

"Earlier this morning, I had a walking tour that started there," she told us.

"About a half an hour after I got home, I started getting texts from home asking if I was OK, what had happened," Lund said.

Green Bay native and UWGB graduate Andre Johnson was in a store on that busy street.

"We saw police go past the window," Johnson said.

"They locked us inside the store for about 20 minutes until we asked the security guard to go out emergency exit," he said.

As emergency personnel swarmed the area, Lund contacted the university with a new safety app.

Brent Blahnik, UWGB Director of International Education, explained, "What it enables students to do is, with a push of a button, they can get in touch with us and emergency services, police, fire ambulance with the touch of an app."

"I did that. He got the message. He responded back. Said I was OK," Lund said.

Blahnik could also check her location.

"You can see where Jemma checked in as her location," Blahnik said. "If a student hit that SOS and say, 'A situation is happening, I don't know where to go or where I am,' I can be in real time with the student looking at a map, directing them where to go."

Blahnik hopes to make the safety app a mandatory download for students this fall, giving them another tool to stay safe on top of the training offered at the university.

"It is a unique feature to keep students safe and help them take control of that situation," he said.