STAY SAFE: Use Your Cell Phone as a Safety Tool
If you have a smartphone, you can download apps designed to help you keep in touch with trusted family or friends while traveling, shopping, or on a date. Even a basic cell phone that enables you to call “911” (or the emergency number for your community) can be a helpful safety tool.
One important caveat: while a cell phone can be a valuable safety tool, it should not be relied on as your only protection.
Why? Because in some locations cell signals are weak or not available. If your phone is in a purse and the purse is taken or not readily available, you have no cell phone.
We’ll talk about developing an overarching personalized Stay Safe strategy in a later post. In this post we’ll discuss how to use your cell phone as a safety tool and highlight specific smartphone apps designed to enhance personal protection.
Cell Phone Safety Tool Basics
In virtually all communities, there is a dedicated phone number that goes directly to a police and fire call center. For the vast majority of jurisdictions in the United States, that number is “911”. In the United Kingdom, the standard number is, “999”; for the European Union, the emergency number is 112.
To ensure you can use your phone in emergencies, you’ll want to:
Use a search service such as Google or Bing to identify the emergency services phone number for the area where you live or other areas you’ll be traveling to or through.
Program these emergency phone numbers and the phone numbers of trusted family and friends in your “Favorites” contact list.
For each community, call the non-emergency phone number listed in the Google or Bing search results and confirm that the emergency phone number is correct. Confirm with your family and friends you’ve identified as emergency contacts, that you have their correct phone numbers.
When out and about:
When walking or in public places, keep your phone in hand or in a pocket where it can be easily reached.
When driving, have your phone within easy reach. Never talk or text while driving, but do have the phone turned on and available in case an emergency arises.
When leaving your residence, call or text a trusted family member or friend to let them know where you are going, how you are traveling, who you are with, and what time you plan to return. Alert your trusted contact if you’re going to be delayed returning home and let them know when are back home safe and sound.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t feel safe, take action right a way. Error on the side of caution when deciding whether to make an emergency call. If you suspect for any reason you’re in an unsafe situation, call police immediately and ask for help.
Apps Designed to Help You Stay Safe
There are a number of apps that have been developed to help keep you safe. While these apps may be useful, they are not a substitute for knowing how to call police directly to get help.
App 1: The “Emergency Call” Option on Your Phone’s Lock Screen
When the lock screen on most versions of Android phones are activated, you’ll see an Emergency Call button on the bottom of the screen. Pressing this button enables you to call “911” (or your emergency police contact number) without entering the PIN.
Like the Android OS phones, you can initiate a call in IOS iPhones without unlocking the screen by activating the “Emergency” command in the lower left of the lock screen. You can also activate Siri (the IOS intelligent assistant) and - after unlocking the screen - give a voice command to “call police”. When IOS 10.2 is available, you’ll have yet an another way to activate an “Emergency SOS” command that calls police automatically.
One important point: keep this as simple as possible by practicing the screen unlock process and opening your phone app to the dial pad. You don’t want to actually dial the emergency number, but you do want the steps for doing so to become automatic in the event you’re faced with a dangerous situation.
App 2: React Mobile Safety App
React Mobile Safety app is available for IOS and Android OS phones.
React Mobile is a personal safety app that features a “Follow-Me” option that allows you to share your GPS location with friends and family so they can track your location in real-time. There are other features as well. Available for IOS (Apple iTunes Store) and Android OS phones (Google Play Store).
For more information visit the React Mobile website at https://reactmobile.com/products/.
App 3: Planet 911 Personal Safety App
The Planet 911 app features:
Text and email alerts;
The ability to record audio and video:
Flash and siren designed to scare off attacker; and,
Encrypted cloud storage for your information.
This is an IOS app available through the iTunes App Store. For more information, visit the Planet 911 website at http://planet911.earth/.
If you have a cell phone, we suggest exploring the basic safety calling options you learned in this post. Every cell phone, whether it’s a smartphone or regular basic cell phone, can be a useful tool in your Stay Safe toolbox.
If you have a smartphone, consider adding and learning to use one or more of the personal safety apps.
Share your comments or questions about using cell phones as a safety tool or other safety topics below.
Steve Carter firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Carter is a former chief of police, defensive tactics instructor, corporate security director, and international speaker who has taught thousands of people how to safeguard their homes, travel safely, and protect themselves online. In addition, he is the CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping everyone achieve optimum health and emotional well-being.