Safety Apps: Getting Help During an Emergency
Personal Safety Apps are designed specifically for you to communicate with others that you may need help.
These apps can provide peace of mind, immediate communication, and access to help in an emergency. However, because these apps are meant to be used during an actual emergency, it will be imperative that they work effectively. It's important to test the app before use and consider whether the features and purpose of the app is what you will need during the emergency. Below are steps to take to make sure a specific app will work for you. Also check out our Choosing and Using Apps: Considerations for Survivors page for more information. Most importantly, if you're in an emergency, always contact 911 directly to get help immediately.
1. TEST, TEST, TEST:
If you choose to use an app to assist you in managing your safety, it is important to check the app to make sure it does what you need it to. For example, several of the personal safety apps will share your location with either the authorities or your chosen trusted contacts if you're in danger. In our tests, we found that some of the apps did not share the location information as promised. How your location data is shared by the app depends on many factors, including the type of phone you have, the settings on the phone, and where you are. It also may not work as well in certain areas. Test the app with your trusted contact(s) and from places where you might actually use it (such as your home, apartment, work, parking garage, etc., and not while sitting across from each other at lunch).
2. BE CAUTIOUS OF MONITORING:
Abusers sometimes monitor phone activity, either physically or remotely, as a tactic of abuse. If you think the abuser could have installed a monitoring software on your phone or device, access the information you are interested in another way. Remote monitoring will allow the abuser to see all activity on the phone. Trust your instincts if you think this may be a safety issue.
3. CREATE A PLAN IN ADDITION TO USING THE APP:
Although these apps may be helpful, they cannot control the behavior of the abusive person, and it's critical to plan for your safety in various ways. No app will take the place of a thorough safety plan that you develop with friends, family, an advocate, or police. If you are going to use an app with friends and/or family as the contacts, be sure to discuss what this means with them and what you want them to do in case they receive a message for help through the app.
4. CONSIDER YOUR PRIVACY:
Apps may ask for personal information or for access to information on your phone (such as location, contacts, photos, etc.). What you share and how you use the app should be up to you. If an app is asking for information you're uncomfortable providing, consider not using that app and choose another app. There are many personal safety apps to choose from. If it's asking you to keep your location/GPS on at all times, consider if that is necessary for the app to function and whether you're comfortable with that. Turning off location access when you're not using it could reduce the risk of anyone else, including the abusive person, from accessing that information and could increase your privacy.