Graveyard shifts, deserted parking lots, and college dorms make personal security a big issue for companies, hospitals, and schools. To fight crime in these places, an Ocean (N.J.) company, Secure System Inc., is pushing a way to summon help with the press of a button. A student, for instance, sounds an alarm using a radio transmitter the size of a key chain, which tells a computer within 1.8 seconds where the person is and pinpoints the location on an electronic map--down to the exact room. If the caller moves, the system keeps track. A keystroke by a security guard pulls up a photo and description of the person--hair and eye color, medical history--which can be faxed to patrol cars. The system even looks out for its own, constantly testing each sensor to guard against malfunction or vandalism.
Last April, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center at Worcester bought a Secure System after a one-month test. A system for a 6,000-student school might cost around $800,000, but the company will install it free if it's allowed to charge rent for each handheld alarm--about $75 per semester.