GMU decided to make a change and began looking at mobile apps. This was the summer of 2012 and such mobile apps were just beginning to hit the market. The university was approached by IBA, a Herndon, Virginia, company that had launched its app in 2011 for use at the London Olympics.
In Case of Crisis works by allowing institutions to use an online portal to upload individual instructions and safety guidelines that can then be published in an app format available through the Apple App Store and Google Play. Users can download the app, which saves those instructions or a smartphone, where they can be accessed even if cellphone service isn’t available.
Making the information available when networks are down was a main focus of the app building process because often in a crisis situation— such as a tornado—networks are down, leaving people unable to access information that would require a signal, says IBA General Manager Chris Britton.
The university began testing a version of IBA's app in March 2013. IBA added new flashlight and siren features on the recommendation of Farris. “When they started integrating my ideas into their product, that’s when I thought, ‘You know what, this could be a really good partnership,’” Farris elaborates.
During the testing period, GMU also realized that it needed to make its emergency response information more concise and more understandable for the university's diverse student body. “I needed to look at (the information) and go, 'Well, would a new student from the Middle East understand what this means?'” Farris says. “And that was important to us also, to make sure that it was intelligible to everybody.”