‘I’m OK’ app feature provides new crisis tool

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The sights and sounds of Aug. 28 will not soon be forgotten on the University of North Carolina campus.

UNC campus police officers say a disgruntled graduate student shot and killed professor Zijie Yan in the Caudill Laboratories building, shutting down campus for much of the day.

What You Need To Know

  • UNC added a new feature called “I’m OK” to its safety app
  • It allows students to let designated contacts know they are safe and where they are in the case of an emergency
  • The feature was announced ahead of UNC’s Student Well-Being Day

One student remembered it well.

“It was kinda scary, and I also started a new job,” Zoie Smith said.

The sophomore from Morganton, North Carolina, said the student bus she would’ve taken to her work-study assignment that summer day would have dropped her off in the center of chaos.

“I was mostly on the phone with my friends and we heard the sirens. That was pretty crazy,” she said. “They were telling people, like, get inside.” 

Now if the same situation were to happen again, at least Smith can let her parents know she’s all right through a new feature called “I’m OK” on the Carolina Ready Safety App.

UNC Media Relations staff said a user can pick three cellphone numbers and email addresses from their contact list to save for the feature. The technology allows students to let their parents know they are OK and their location should another crisis on campus arise.

“The creation of this feature is based on feedback from our campus community, and the new tool is meant to give our community another option for how to communicate with their loved ones and contacts that they are ok in the case of a campus emergency,” UNC said in a statement.

Smith was positive about the addition. “I will say the ‘I’m OK’ thing will help with things like what happened in early August,” she said.

The announcement was made a day before UNC’s Student Well-Being Day on campus.

Students gave mixed responses about feelings of safety on campus the day after the new tech was revealed. 

Some said they feel only mildly safer since the shooting, and others said they welcome any ability to let their family know they are all right in the middle of a chaotic situation.

Prioritizing student safety is something interim Chancellor Lee Roberts spoke about on Thursday as well.

“Safety and security are a precursor to everything else we want to do,” Roberts said.

He said the safety of the campus is top of his list.

“We generally do have a safe campus, but we do have to be vigilant at all times about keeping it a safe and secure campus,” Roberts said.

Even so, Smith, a biology and exercise science major, said she hopes she does not have to hunker down in her dorm room again.

“I think overall Carolina is a safe campus and I think that was a fluke,” Smith said of the shooting.

The UNC Emergency Management and Planning Department will oversee the function and implementation of the app.

Student Body President Christopher Everett could not be reached Thursday to comment.

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