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An emergency phone app, designed to help college students and parents keep informed when the student is faced with an emergency, is becoming available at local universities.
Umergency is based in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it was co-founded by Gail Schenbaum and her brother Barry Schenbaum, after Ms Schenbaum’s daughter experienced an emergency situation while attending the University of Michigan. After years of work, the app is spreading to campuses across the country, according to Ms Schenbaum.
Ms Schenbaum said the app is available at Connecticut colleges, including Albertus Magnus College, Central Connecticut State University, Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Fairfield University, Post University, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Southern Connecticut State University, Trinity College, University of Bridgeport, University of Connecticut, University of Hartford, University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, Western Connecticut State University, and Yale University.
According to Umergency, the app allows users to access critical information when it is needed. The description on its website reads, “The local and on-campus information comes pre-populated and is specific to each student’s campus, while the user-entered data is unique to each student and allows them to decide what to share and with whom. Additional features include the ability to upload and share a secure copy of the student’s health insurance card, and a digital medical consent form that can allow the student’s trusted friends and family to receive confidential information in case of an emergency. When help is needed immediately, the Umergency Urgent Alert feature sends an instant emergency beacon to the student’s chosen contacts.” More information about the app is available on its website, umergencyapp.com.
Ms Schenbaum said the app is spreading as users request it to be made available at different campuses. When her daughter was in the hospital states away, Ms Schenbaum said her first response was to pick up her phone, but she quickly realized she did not have the information she needed to contact anyone who could help or offer more information. Once the situation with her daughter was over, Ms Schenbaum said she began thinking about ways to help others never face the same situation. Without the proper forms, parents can be blocked from learning more information about their child in the hospital.
Matt Janco — a senior marketing major at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and a 2014 graduate of Newtown High School — said he started using the app after learning about it from his friend Katie Parzych, who is the app’s student brand ambassador at UConn.
“I had never really considered the program at hand, if something did happen,” Matt said recently. He has never visited the emergency room as a student at UConn, but Matt said his friend made him realize the complications that could happen if he did.
For instance, Matt said his parents would not be able to learn about an emergency or learn information about him without a consent form being signed, because he is over 18. With the app, “They would automatically know,” he added.
The app also has forms ready for students to fill out. While the app is free for students, there is a charge for parent users. Parents, family members, and other nonstudent users can subscribe for $7.99/year or $19.99 for lifetime access, according to Umergency.
Matt said he decided to use the app to “kind of add that ease for my parents if something was to happen.” He said his parents, Lisa and Kevin Janco, also use the app. Matt said he would recommend using the app to other college students.
“Hopefully it is not an app you need all the time,” he said, adding that if something happens, it is an added tool for students to use in an emergency. “I think generally speaking it makes a lot of sense to have your kids on the app,” said Matt.
Ms Schenbaum said parents can use the app first and send an invitation for their children to sign up.
“Most people don’t really know the problem, which is that over four million 18-to-24-year-olds visit the [emergency room] every year,” said Ms Schenbaum, adding that is roughly a one in four chance for each student each year.