4 Things You Need to Know About Safety Apps

Are you looking for a safety app for yourself or your employees?  While we believe in the old adage, something is better than nothing, there are a few things to know before making your purchase.

#1: Safety Apps are buggy.

When your Candy Crush app crashes or you forget to make routine updates, nobody gets hurt.  When you are in the middle of a dangerous situation, seemingly routine app maintenance like this can mean the difference between your getting help or not.  While convenient, all apps come with this tradeoff, which was outlined by TechCruch in a survey of smartphone owners in the graph below.

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#2: How do you access that App on the fly?

Someone is trying to hurt you, you see them coming for you – what happens next?  If you are relying on a safety app, you are in for a minimum of 3-4 steps: unlock your phone, open an app, activate the app, and then keep control of your phone.  To understate it, this is not likely to happen.  What happens all to often, whether using an app or just trying to call 911 direct, is the victim’s phone is grabbed out of their hand and destroyed.

#3: Who is on the other end?

To keep costs down, most apps companies are not actual security companies.  Instead, apps will alert non-emergency responders, such as friends and family, of your need for help.  While those circles certainly love you, do you want to rely on your family or friends to have the steel nerves of a 911 operator when they get an alert out of the blue that you’re in trouble?  Would they even know what to do?  What if your mom is asleep?  What if your girlfriends are in a loud bar and don’t see the alert?  Rolling the dice when you’re in trouble is very risky.

#4 Wait, I can’t do two things at once?

Premier safety apps are run by true safety monitoring centers.  On paper, this is great.  They advertise that they will know your exact location during an emergency.  Unfortunately, this is not true in many cases due to the inability of CDMA phones (Verizon and Sprint) to simultaneously use their browsing and talking functionality.  What does this mean for many apps?  If you happened to activate your app and are talking to the monitoring agent, they have two choices – 1) find your location before picking up the phone, or 2) not finding your location until they’ve disconnected with you.  Most choose the first option which leaves you in limbo during a dangerous situation.  Moral of the story, research your phone’s capabilities before jumping into a paid safety app.

Questions for corporations to ask before buying a smartphone safety app for staff.

  1. Outline why you are looking for a personal safety tool. Do you just want something in an employee gets into a car accident or do you need something that can work in numerous situations reliably?
  2. Do you want to rely on employees to maintain software updates, keep their phone in good condition, maintain good payment standing, etc.
  3. Can you require employees to download apps on their personal phones and if so, what measures are you going to implement to ensure all employees retain the app on their phone.
  4. Apps function very differently depending on cellphone service provider, operating platform, and phone model. Before implementing a safety app, you should document this information for all employees and create a protocol to keep this info up to date to ensure that the app remains functional.  For example, safety app functionality across the board changed during the Verizon iPhone transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7.
  5. Your employees all have different cellphone providers and these carriers have different performance abilities. A gap in coverage will leave a safety app non-functional.  Determine if your employees are in a strong enough coverage zone for their location of work so that you can be confident that they’ll always have a signal.

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