The Sooner, The Better

As smartphones have become ubiquitous, so has the need for mobile security apps

Does an organization need to invest in a safety app? The short answer is yes, the sooner the better. For the longer answer we must consider the technological, behavioral, and legal trends.

Looking back 20 years ago, land lines were still the most popular mode of communication. Popular also were beepers, snail mail and sending faxes. That all changed with the advent of an affordable smartphone is 2007. Since then, we have seen the smartphone become the focal point of people’s lives; their gateway.

This gateway is responsible for every aspect of a person’s life today, communication, work, entertainment, time management, and while not at the forefront of people’s minds, safety. Also since 2007, we have seen a shift in behavior when interacting, moving from making calls to sending text messages or some type of message via one of the various social media platforms.

Even with this behavioral shift, people are still calling 911, now just from their mobile phone. In fact, 80 percent of calls to 911 are made from mobile phones. Even with the majority of calls coming from smartphones, the technology being used to receive the calls (in the majority of 911 call centers) is actually less compatible with smartphones than they are with land lines.

Essentially, in a world where your refrigerator can tell you it was left open, or your car can drive you, you will have better results calling 911 from a landline than a mobile phone.

So the scenario now is you have been trained to use your phone to communicate via text and social media. You are in need of 911 assistance, your heart is beating a little faster, mind racing and you have to try to remember to use a landline instead of the phone that is in your pocket. After all of this, you are on the phone with 911 and still have to verbally relay all information to 911. How is this the scene in today’s advanced technological age? 911 call centers are also facing a second issue, limited resources. While the exact statistics vary from district to district, on average between 50 to 90 percent of calls

911 receives are for nonemergency issues. Issues range from simple concerns to prank calls, all of which need to be prioritized by 911 for response. While the prank calls are an entirely separate issue, simple concerns have the potential to be resolved by administrators and security guards, not to mention they are also assigned the lowest priority by 911 resulting in slow response times.

A scenario in which a person reports issues to campus safety at a school, or a landlord at a residential property, or the security department at a business, or even a security guard at any type of venue would alleviate a lot of stress on 911.

Nonemergency issues being handled locally, and true emergencies being escalated to 911 is a very real alternative that can be implemented today by investing in a safety app.

Safety apps are able to create an environment that maximizes the capabilities of a person’s most frequently used tool, their smartphone. A person can simply send a text message, photo, or video of the issue to the responsible party of the facility. This made even easier by the process of using the app as the recipient is already programmed. In many ways this is easier than having to dial 911. In addition to the message, the recipient also receives useful details like date, time, and most importantly GPS. Most safety apps also come with an ability to share these critical details with 911 when escalated from local authorities.

A scenario with an investment in a safety app results in a person using their mobile phone in the most familiar way (camera and text) while also increasing the amount of information transferred during an emergency. This results in improved response from 911, and equally important, piece of mind.

One last piece to consider when evaluating an investment into a safety app solution, is the current legal climate. We live in a time when legally speaking there is always someone accountable, and they are being held accountable through lawsuits. Duty of care is a massively popular term today that has come about with the increase of lawsuits involving physical harm.

Ultimately, duty of care is the legal obligation that actions were taken to mitigate the possibility of harm. This is the first barrier for any lawsuit that claims negligence. Implementing a safety app gives a person a tool that mitigates the risk of physical harm, ultimately making it much harder to prove negligence.

Whatever your priorities might be, wanting to help 911 better serve you and your community, giving people a tool that works in a way that is most familiar, piece of mind, or simply shielding yourself from liability, it is clear that implementing a safety app is a necessity today.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Richard Aldrich is the cofounder of Incident Co.


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