Students throughout the country are abandoning traditional personal safety measures, like carrying pepper spray, in favor of smaller, safer and less violent options.
One alternative safety method is called the Sound Grenade, a tiny personal alarm that fits in the palm of the hand. This product was developed by a California based company, ROBOCOPP. To activate the alarm, the user pulls the pin from the top of the device and the Sound Grenade emits a 120-decibel chirping sound, the same sound level as an ambulance siren.
Once the pin has been removed, the alarm will sound continuously for 30 minutes until the pin is clicked back into place.
The idea for the alarm came to ROBOCOPP CEO, Sam Mensen, when his younger sister complained that she did not feel safe walking at night on her college campus. She was uncomfortable with the thought of using pepper spray and wanted a less violent alternative. She loved the device, and soon all of her friends were asking for their own alarm as well.
As a result, the Sound Grenade has gained popularity on many campuses across the country.
This fall, California State University, East Bay provided all incoming freshmen with a Sound Grenade, and resident advisors taught students how to use them during floor meetings. .
ROBOCOPP Public Relations Director Jill Turner also mentioned a large number of purchases from the CU Boulder area and said that, although the products are not only meant for use on college campuses, college students are “big advocates” for the Sound Grenade.
“The alarm really resonates with college students since they’re away from their parents and are facing independence issues for the first time in their lives,” Turner said.
She also described an interesting trend in the company’s customer demographics.
“A lot of people would expect most of our customers to be female, but men actually make up about 50 percent of our customer base,” she said.
While the Sound Grenade is an excellent tool for the prevention of sexual assault, among other frequent campus crimes, according to ROBOCOPP’s website, the alarm can also be used as an animal repellent, rescue signal or intrusion alert.
ROBOCOPP is not alone in attempting to upgrade personal security. Other options available to students include PhoneFlare, a free app that alerts a school’s safety dispatch when a student is in danger and texts the student’s GPS location to his/her family and friends, and the LifeLine Enterprise smartphone app.
CU Boulder Police and Emergency Management provide students with a paid subscription to the LifeLine app, which includes two safety features to be used during an emergency.
One feature lets students indicate if they need help by activating a button that sends an emergency signal to LifeLine Enterprise dispatch when they remove their thumb from the button.
Another prompts students to set an amount of time for a specific activity, such as walking home alone in the dark. If the student does not deactivate the timer before the time has expired, an alert is sent to dispatch. In both cases, dispatch evaluates the situation before contacting the police.
While Turner sees the value in different types of personal safety devices, she points out the benefits of the Sound Grenade with regard to the shortcomings of cell phones.
Although a phone battery could die or a GPS signal could fail to be located, the Sound Grenade only relies on its battery, which lasts 30 minutes or one year, and is tightly sealed to make the device water-resistant.
“I think a lot of people think of their phone as this beacon or savior, when it really isn’t,” Turner said.
In response to the success of the Sound Grenade, ROBOCOPP has plans to release a new product sometime in the near future.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Eliza Radeka at Eliza.Radeka@colorado.edu.