Swipe for Safety: Could your cell phone save your life?

Local News

Much like smartphone apps that allow you to monitor your home security system and keep your home and belongings safe – personal safety apps are also trending.

Every day, new personal safety apps are popping up and many of them are free to download on Apple and Android cell phones.

Most of these apps use your phone’s GPS to track your location while others act as a panic button to send out an alert to a select group of contacts and police when you need help.

Some personal safety apps have been designed by search and rescue experts. These apps focus on hikers and runners who may be in remote areas on a regular basis.

According to police, using a personal safety app is a welcomed idea.

“Any cell phone app out there that provides some sense of security or safety, which also serves as a tool for law enforcement is considered a good app,” explained Sgt. John Seeber, Onondaga County Sheriff’s office. “However, people need to remember that it’s very important that they remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

In the event of a violent attack, Seeber says that “being prepared” makes all the difference when there are only a few seconds to react.

Always preparing themselves, Tina O’Mara and Caryn Daher, both mothers, say they know the importance of self-awareness.

It was not until O’Mara and Daher each saw their own children training at Five Star Martial Arts in North Syracuse that they considered joining themselves.

A while back, they got their start when Five Star offers free training and classes to moms during the month of May in honor of Mother’s Day. 

Now, they train weekly alongside other adults, teens and children in the black belt class as they sharpen their martial arts and self-defense skills.

“To know that I could face any of those situations makes all the difference that I would know exactly what I needed to do to protect myself,” Daher said.

In addition to self-defense, O’Mara says it’s all about being confident whenever you’re out and about.

“Having the confidence to be out there on your own and doing things,” O’Mara said. “I think if you portray that confidence, you’re less likely to be a victim often times.”

However, there are times when you find yourself unable to avoid an attack.

Just like a powerful punch, technology is kicking in.

“I have an Apple watch and I feel like that’s even closer to me so I would have that ability to send out either a quick text or even make a call without having to get my phone out,” says O’Mara.

Daher agrees that using technology for safety is a good thing.

“Any way that you can add to your layers of personal safety is a good thing but I don’t think any one thing is the cure-all, you know what I mean?” Daher said. “In those situations where it may call out for help for you that’s great or locate you that’s great but I think also having the ability to take care of yourself until that help arrives is really important.”

Officers agree with Daher.

At the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, technology such as a phone or app’s GPS function can play a role in helping or even locating someone in danger.

“They do come in handy and again, any tool out there that would help law enforcement is considered a good tool for us,” Sgt. Seeber explained.  “You never know when violence is going to attack and it’s always better to be prepared.”

If you’re heading out for a run or walk alone and you’re not carrying your phone or don’t use any personal safety apps – Seeber suggests sending a simple text to a few loved ones.

Tell your select contacts what time you’re leaving, what your route will be and what time you think you will return home.

Seeber says it is a combination of alert behavior, self-defense, calling 911 or using a safety app that could make the difference.

However, no two situations are the same.

“No matter what property it is that you may have on you, it’s definitely not more valuable than your life so we would probably recommend that you not put up a fight,” Seeber explained. But obviously if you’re trained and the opportunity is there, it comes back to judgment.”

When you’re out:
Be alert to your surroundings
Have an “exit” route
Keep your GPS on
Call 911 immediately
Use your safety app

Top-rated free apps:

bsafe – Creates a circle of your trusted contacts to know where you are and if you’re safe. This app also begin recording video of where you hit the “Guardian Alert” button. There is also an optional siren that will sound when you’re in danger. (Free to download)

McAfee Personal Safety – The app provides a live map of your location to those you share it with. “You’re always in control of your privacy and can turn off location sharing at any time.” The Priority Call feature ensures your alert is sent to your “safety network” even when a contact’s phone is set to a “do not disturb” mode. (Free to download)

uAlert – Another self-functioning app that creates a safety network for you and sends GPS location information to loved ones. According to its play store description, “it has been designed to offer the fastest and most efficient response in the event of an attack.” (Free to download)

iGoSafely – This app works as a personal security alarm using your emergency contacts in the event you’re unable to call or text for help in a dangerous situation. If a dangerous situation arises, all you do is shake your phone vigorously or just unplug your head phone cord to activate the alert to your contacts. Your contacts will then receive an update every 60 seconds until you disarm the alarm with your code. Each alert message includes a GPS position and a 30-second audio recording as captured by your phone’s microphone. (Free to download)

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