Mobile Safety Apps Help Alleviate Unnecessary 911 Calls

Investing in a mobile safety app for your campus could help keep 911 dispatch centers from being inundated with non-emergency calls.

Mobile Safety Apps Help Alleviate Unnecessary 911 Calls

Does your organization need to invest in a mobile safety app? The short answer is yes, and the sooner, the better. The longer answer involves consideration of technological, behavioral, and legal trends.

Twenty years ago, landlines were the most popular mode of communication, along with beepers, traditional mail, and fax machines. Everything changed with the advent of an affordable smartphone in 2007. Since then, we have seen the smartphone become the focal point of everyone’s lives — a gateway responsible for communication, work, entertainment, time management, and even safety.

The last twelve years have also seen a shift in behavior in preferred methods of communication with users migrating from making calls to using text messaging, social media platforms, or various communications-based apps (e.g., WhatsApp).

Even with this behavioral shift, people are still calling 911 — now just from their mobile phone. In fact, according to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), 80% of calls to 911 are made from mobile phones. However, the technology being used to receive the calls in most 911 call centers is actually less compatible with smartphones than with landlines. Essentially, in a world of novelties like self-driving cars and refrigerators that communicate, there are still better results when someone calls 911 from a landline versus a mobile phone.

The scenario is as follows: you’ve been conditioned to use your phone to communicate via text and social media. As a result, when an emergency arises, you reach for a landline instead of the phone in your pocket. After you connect with 911 dispatch, you then have to verbally relay all information to the operator. How has this remained the case in today’s advanced technological age?

In addition to dealing with compatibility issues with regards to smartphones, 911 call centers are also facing the issue of limited resources. 911 is being inundated with non-emergency calls throughout the country, all of which are prioritized for a response.

Simple issues so often have the potential to be resolved by local authority figures, be it administrators or security guards. Currently, non-emergency issues are assigned the lowest priority by 911. which clogs the pipeline and results in slow response times for all.

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 unnecessary volume to and stress on 911. Non-emergency issues being handled locally while only true emergencies escalate to 911 is a very real alternative that can be implemented today by investing in a safety app.

Safety apps maximize the capabilities of a person’s most frequently used tool, their smartphone, by providing a portal to simply send a text message, photo, or video of an issue to the responsible security party of a facility. Reporting issues is made even easier by the recipient already being programmed in the app. In many ways, this is easier than having to dial 911, and the margin of error in communication is lessened. 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.

Investment in a safety app permits a person to communicate from their smartphone in the most commonly used ways, via camera and text, while increasing the amount of information transferred during an emergency, all within a shorter timeframe than the current, clunky catch-all of calling 911. This ultimately results in an improved response from 911, and, equally important, peace of mind.

Another factor to consider when making an investment into a safety app solution is the current legal climate. We live in a time when legally speaking, there is always someone held accountable when issues arise, and in turn, that person faces a lawsuit. “Duty of care” is a massively popular term today due to the increase of lawsuits involving physical harm. The term implies that there is a legal obligation for actions to be taken to mitigate the possibility of harm. This is the first barrier for any lawsuit that claims negligence, and implementing a safety app both provides a tool that mitigates the risk of physical harm and makes it much harder to prove negligence.

Whether you want to help 911 better serve you and your community, give people a tool that works in a way that is most familiar, shield yourself from liability, or simply provide peace of mind, implementing a safety app can help you achieve all of these goals. Whatever your priorities may be, a safety app is a multi-faceted, critical solution that matches the pace of today’s world.

Rick Aldrich is the CEO of Incident Co., a mobile security communications platform.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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