Leeds Traditional Martial Arts
_The smartphone is taking over the world, right? There aren't many things these days that we don't have an App for. Be honest, how many of you go App shopping when you're bored?
Lately I've been looking into personal safety Apps and you'd be surprised at what's out there. I'm not talking about Apps that teach you Kung Fu from the screen, but Apps that can be used to save your life in an emergency. These are some of the features you might want to look out for:
In Case of Emergency. I have a fantastic App on my phone which lists all the information a paramedic or other emergency service operator may need. I can include information like my name, emergency contact details, blood type, allergies, current medical conditions etc. I can even specify that in the event of me being taken to hospital I need someone to contact my neighbors and ask them to take care of my dog. The only problem is that it needs to be where a paramedic can notice and find it easily. For this reason I have deducted a star.
Basically does what it says on the tin - will flash patterns of specified colours when activated. The idea of this App is that you will somehow fool would be attackers that you're the police or that your building has an active alarm. Personally I think this is a great tool, but for a completely different purpose. Suppose you come across a casualty, call an ambulance and then begin to administer first aid - under many circumstances you wont be able to leave the casualty to guide the emergency services to your location. How about if you fall and break your leg or hit your head? Activating your flashers is a great way to broadcast your location when you need help.
Emergency Services / Contact Alert
Rather than being a stand alone App, this is often used alongside other personal safety Apps. For example, if you trigger your panic alarm, your check in timer expires etc. At this point your phone will call / email / text the emergency services or someone from your contact list, the best ones send your GPS location with the beacon. This is great in an emergency situation but not so great for accidents, false alarms and precautionary use.
Panic Buttons / Personal Alarm
This really is a splendid idea. Personal alarms are regarded as one of the foremost pieces of kit for vulnerable targets as alerts people to your position and may scare off an attacker - who wont want to get caught by the people coming to find out what's doing on. The best ones allow you to open the button App and then bash a big red button on the screen if you need to activate it. It's a simple idea but you don't have much chance of activating it if you're taken by surprise. This works better as a 'I don't feel safe so I'll get my alarm ready' device. Because of the small element of faff involved, it loses a star. Please make sure when investing in alarms that your alarm tones over 130 decibels - the higher the better!
I prefer GPS tracking when it's used in conjunction with a second App. For example, your panic button, check in timer, flashing lights etc. It's more useful to employ a tracker than a one-off snap shot of your co-ordinates as you probably aren't going to stay put in an emergency. The other options for trackers include a permanent tracker, so designated people can see where you are at all times (not always useful) or a continuous tracker signal which you can activate when you chose to. Some people regard it as invasion of privacy but in an emergency situation, your family knowing your exact location could save your life. It looses a star because smartphones are one of the first things that will get stolen in a mugging.
There are two philosophies on the electronic witness. The first is that it's used as a preventative measure - so you take a photo of your taxi driver before getting in and he knows you've got his face recorded. The downside is this doesn't work in a surprise attack or when you're attacked by someone you haven't recorded. Imagine the chat up lines: "Yes you can buy me a drink but can I take your photo first just in case you turn out to be a serial killer?". The second idea is that you activate Electronic Witness and it starts taking regular photos / streaming video and, once again, streams it / emails it straight to a trusted contact or a secure server. The downside being that you may never get the chance to activate it or point it at your attackers face (if their face is even visible). The biggest downside is that this is really an evidence collection tool, it's designed to help the cops track down who murdered you after the fact. Which doesn't help you as you've already been murdered. It's a nice idea but needs more work.
Check In Timer
The idea of the check in timer is quite a good one. Say you're walking home: you set the timer for twenty minutes and when you get home you turn it off or 'check in'. The idea is that if someone and or something prevents you from checking in then the App will send your location and a notification that you might be in trouble to designated contacts. I don't think I'd use this for every little thing that I did (I'd forget to check in) but I suspect that it would be an extremely useful tool in situations where you don't feel quite safe.
Torch / Flashlight
This one is perhaps one of my favourite personal safety Apps as I always recommend that you have a Torch in your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) arsenal. I've seen these work from the flash bulb on the back of the phone and also from the display on the front. Personally I prefer to use the flash bulb as I may need to use the phone display to call 999 in an emergency situation. One of the best things about Torch Apps is that you can almost certainly find a good, free version for any brand of smartphone.
_Portable Sensory Alarm
_You plop your phone on your bedside table and set the alarm. You have ten seconds to get into bed and then it starts monitoring the sound and motion in the room. If it detects an intruder then it sounds an alarm and sends an alert to your contact list. It's a good idea but what if you snore? Talk in your sleep? Your cat wanders into the room? Your land-line rings? I can see my emergency contacts getting annoyed very quickly with this one.
When you're looking to download a personal safety App try to make sure it has several of the better features listed above that will work together in conjunction. You may have to pay for a good App and you may find that a lot of Apps are only currently available for the iPhone, though the Android marketplace is improving all the time.
Top tip: Personal safety Apps are no good if you have to go through three files to access them. Have it ready to go at the touch of a button. You may find it useful to attach your personal safety App to your convenience key but bear in mind that if you have several safety Apps all providing different features, you will only be able to attach one so it may be best to shop around and find the App contains all the features you need in one whack.