Help Is a Beep Away With New Security System : Safety: The device lets students call for assistance from anywhere on campus. Its inventor, a former dentist, has made the business a full-time practice.
While he made his living as a dentist, Michael Beales loved to dabble with electronic gizmos in his spare time. But a visit to his daughter’s school in 1991 gave him an idea that turned his hobby into a full-time enterprise.
Concerned about his daughter’s safety at Syracuse University, Beales invented Secure System, a beeper-based security program that is being used at seven colleges and institutions.
Three hundred students and staff members at Loyola University signed up recently for Secure System, which requires them to carry a transmitter the size of a matchbox to call for help from anywhere on campus.
Campus police can call up a computerized photograph of the person signaling for help, and his or her exact location, down to the room of a building. If the person runs or is kidnaped, the computer keeps up with their movements.
The computer also provides medical information, should the person need a paramedic.
Beales has tinkered with electronic devices for years. After nearly falling off a tractor far from his New Jersey house, he developed an alarm system to alert his wife by using a garage-door opener.
After visiting his daughter at Syracuse, he got the idea for a better way for students to summon help.
It wasn’t that his daughter’s school didn’t have security. In addition to campus police, there was a “blue light” system of boxes that enabled students to summon authorities. But it fell short of ideal.
“My daughter pointed out that no robber was going to say, ‘I’ll wait until you go punch the blue light box over there,’ ” Beales said.
Secure System is installed on all or part of five campuses, including Loyola.
The system has been used twice since it was set up at the University of Bridgeport on Oct. 4, once by a woman being chased across campus by two men, and again by a student who summoned paramedics to his room during a severe asthma attack.
Loyola is a 5,500-student campus located on 28 acres in the historic Uptown section of New Orleans. Patrick Bailey, director of the university police, said that although the campus has been spared violent crime, the paging system is a welcome addition.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Bailey said. “We’ve had a low crime rate, but crime, especially murders, are on the rise in New Orleans. This is another part of our security measures.”
Samantha Boza, a student from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who signed up for a pager, said many students have to walk across campus at night to get to libraries and laboratories.
“After 10:30, it’s pretty deserted and you have to walk at a fast pace and look around as you go,” she said. “This will make it safer, especially if you can’t walk in a group.”
Installation can cost $300,000 to $800,000, but Beales’ Ocean, N.J.-based company will set up the system free if enough students are willing to pay $75 per semester to use it.
In addition to college campuses, the paging system has been installed in a hospital for the criminally insane at Tupperlake, N.Y., and a court complex in Harrisonburg, Va.
Secure System is working on signing up other campuses, office and industrial complexes and senior citizen centers.
Beales, meanwhile, has given up dentistry.
“This business already has grown well beyond what I would imagine it would be,” he said.