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COVID-19 Response

Engaging and Informing: The Role of AppArmor Technology in COVID-19 Response
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Update: May 6 2020

Below this section you will find the entirety of our case study on responses to COVID-19 using AppArmor Software. However, we have added relevant video resources for In-App Self-Assessments, Contract Tracing, and more below.

The Background

COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge to the world community. Whether you’re a higher education institution, a healthcare facility, a private corporation or other entity, no part of society is unaffected by the crisis. The risk of loss of life due to SARS-CoV-2 and the subsequent COVID-19 disease has caused material changes to our ways of life.

In early to mid-March, the pandemic began to directly affect the operations of AppArmor customers in North America (Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean). On March 12th, the United States ordered all non-essential businesses closed and ended travel to Europe. On March 16th, Americans were advised to remain at home for a minimum of 15 days. On March 21st, the Canada-US border closed to all non-essential travel, a step never before taken in the history of the two countries . As time went on, our customers in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand also began to take decisive action.

COVID-19 response is the moment for which our partner organizations and their first responders trained. Needless to say, our software was heavily used between the mid-March to mid-April timeframe. Below is an exploration of the challenges that our customers faced and how they used AppArmor Safety, Alert, and Command software to help keep their people safe.

“We used the uChicago Safe app as a force multiplier for our centralized information repository for all COVID-19 updates. The app has been a great tool for us to reach a large portion of users and really increase traffic to centralized resources."

Michael Kwiatkowski, Executive Director of Campus Safety at the University of Chicago
The Challenge

Emergency managers, campus police, security personnel and business continuity managers all faced the same challenge: determining how to most effectively communicate with and inform their stakeholders at the outset and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, their end users were looking for as much information from trusted authorities as they could absorb in order to understand how the crisis was going to affect them and their livelihood.

In particular, the needs we heard from our partner organizations were:

  • Determining a method to deter inefficient communication methods, such as high numbers of inbound calls;
  • A simple and credible method for information dissemination regarding the crisis;
  • Deter or eliminate the effects of misinformation regarding the virus;
  • Provide further visibility on secondary resources to help end users cope with the crisis;
  • A one-stop-shop to aggregate COVID-19 content.

AppArmor system administrators at our organizations used AppArmor software, along with other systems, to provide a comprehensive approach to responding to COVID-19.

The Solution

A pillar of AppArmor software has always been in the “white-labelling” of the platform to meet the visual identity of the partner organization. This, among other things, contributes to the success of the platform as it provides end users with an application they instantly trust. In non-COVID times, we know this white-labelling approach works; our platform gets 50-100 times more downloads versus the other safety apps in market. This built-in credibility would prove absolutely essential during the early days of COVID-19.

In the first few weeks of COVID-19 response, our system was extremely active. End users were driven to the organizationally branded safety app platform (AppArmor Safety) to find timely, relevant and accurate information. Namely:

  • From February 19th to March 19th the platform had a net increase of 95,000 push notification subscribers. (Note actual download totals were higher as this number only represents engaged users that select to “Allow” push notifications when prompted).
  • In particular, in the 7 days from March 12th to March 19th, net downloads went up by approximately 30,000 push notification subscribers.
  • In all, we’ve seen a net increase of over 115,000 push notification subscribers from February 19th to April 19th.

Our partner organizations acted quickly and used the AppArmor Safety “Designer” content management system (CMS) to create specific COVID-19 content. In some cases, this content linked directly to an organization COVID-19 webpage, whereas in others it led to a more detailed in-app user interface which guided users to the appropriate content. As we mentioned in our blog post on March 3rd, the team at Princeton University included a faculty and staff FAQ, information for end users travelling (which was still happening at the time), WHO information, and much more. The ability to change content in real-time via the Designer was exceptionally important; not only could institutions post relevant COVID-19 content, but they could update it in real-time as conditions changed.

AppArmor also moved to assist partner institutions with deploying their COVID-19 sections. Using content shared at other institutions across the AppArmor Network, our team built out a standard COVID-19 section that included professionally designed aesthetics and content from respected authorities in an easy to understand menu structure. Institutions could then implement that content in their custom branded safety app in real-time.

Organizations were also actively using the mass notification capabilities on AppArmor Safety (mobile app push notifications) and AppArmor Alert (SMS, email, voice call and more) during the early days of the crisis. In the same February 19th to March 19th time period:

  • Over 5,000,000 endpoints were reached via various forms of AppArmor mass notifications
  • There over 1.7 million unique tracking events (views, clicks, and other engagement) as a result of these notifications, or approximately 30% conversion, across all alerting mechanisms
  • The most common alert type with which users engaged was mass email (44% of the overall engagement), followed by a tie between push notifications (20%) and SMS messages (20%).

The combination of full branding to the organization and powerful mass notifications proved to be very valuable in managing the crisis. Organizations were able to quickly, easily, and thoroughly provide important details regarding COVID-19 response. In effect, AppArmor Safety apps and organizationally branded emergency alerting landing pages became trusted “sources of truth” for millions of affected end users.

What’s more, the detail of the information provided to end users was, in some cases, extremely specific. Rather than just aggregate closure or lockdown information, some organizations used the mass notification options on the platform to provide very specific details to either all or a subset of users – such as particular building closures, internal staff memorandum regarding next and instructions to first responders in the field. This level of granularity in alert targeting and messaging was important in managing the crisis.

The system also helped to accomplish the specific objectives of our institutions. For instance, the number of inbound to calls to our partner organizations dropped considerably as end users used the organization’s mobile safety application to find the content for which they were looking. Information was quickly and easily disseminated across dozens of alerting options to user with different notification preferences. Inaccurate information was actively rebutted as organizations drove users to detailed sources of truth which included safety apps and branded landing pages. Visibility on secondary resources to assist end users, such as mental health resources and financial assistance also increased. In all, the AppArmor platform became a one-stop-shop for COVID-19 content.

The Conclusion

The net result of the usage of the AppArmor platform during the COVID-19 crisis was that many of the strengths of the system became essential in the everyday operations of our partner organizations. The need for organizationally mass notifications and sources of truth were crucial in keeping stakeholders informed and calm during the closure of many businesses across the globe. Overall it has been established that:

  • Configurable content in safety apps improve the organization’s ability to react to crisis.
  • Safety apps and mass notifications continue to play an active role in informing organization stakeholders.
  • Safety apps continue to be relevant for end users despite the fact they may not be on-site / on-campus.
  • A unified notification offering provided organizations with a trusted and effective way to keep their locations safe
  • Safety apps provide valuable tools that go beyond just simple mass notification endpoints.

On April 21st 2020, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IALCEA) and AppArmor Co-Founder David Sinkinson hosted a webinar with representatives from Princeton University, the University of Chicago and Pace University. They discussed the role of Safety Apps in COVID-19 Response at those organizations and across the AppArmor Network. The recording is available below.

IACLEA Webinar: Engaging and Informing: The Role of Safety Apps in COVID-19 Response
COVID-19 Resources for Security, Police and Emergency Management Personnel

In light of the ongoing effects of COVID-19, please feel free to take advantage of these additional resources:

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