You're not alone, we can't help it, we feel like danger can be lurking everywhere. Walking down the street, getting into your car in a parking lot, even at home - the news is filled with horrible everyday situations where someone gets attacked and violated.
In emergencies like these or on occasions where you just feel uneasy and insecure, did you know that there's a distress signal tool at your disposal at all times? A tool you can deploy anytime you may need help from the people you trust?
Yes, we're talking about your smartphone and the multiple SOS and emergency apps you can download and use now in times of dire need. Here are our top five picks:
Important: Most of these apps use your phone's GPS and location tracking, which may impact and decrease its battery life.
1. Silent Beacon: Emergency Alert System
Silent Beacon, available for iOS and Android, is described by its creators as "the emergency alert system for the digital age." It is a free app and service that uses GPS-tracking to send your location to a custom set of contacts, including 911 or emergency services, through a "distress message."
This distress message can be sent via customizable text, email or a push notification with a touch of the app's button during emergencies when the beacon is activated. A "Nudge" feature is also included to notify your contacts to stand by for any incoming alert, for example, if you're in an area you don't feel comfortable visiting.
Silent Beacon is simple, straightforward and for a free app, it does its job well - send a message and your location via text notification in a jiffy. You never know, that may be enough to save you from trouble one day.
For an ever quicker way to send out a Silent Beacon alert, they sell a separate wearable device that has all the functions of the app built in. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and can send out a distress signal even with your phone in your pocket.
2. bSafe: Personal Safety App
bSafe's free version lets you send out a distress message by hitting its SOS button. This notifies your "Guardians" of the emergency via text message and provides them with your location. To prevent any false warnings while setting up your emergency contacts, bSafe's free version also has a Test feature.
For more features, bSafe also has a premium subscription-based version of its service. This version has real-time location tracking called "Follow Me," the safe arrival notification "I'm Here," video capabilities, history logs and a Fake Call button to make your phone ring on a set time.
bCall's premium service costs $20 a year with a special $30 promo price for a two-year subscription.
3. Companion: Mobile Personal Safety
Companion was originally created by five students from the University of Michigan to help students who regularly walk home at night on university campus grounds.
Similar to other safety apps, Companion lets you pick your own contacts as your emergency alert recipients. Each time you start a tracked trip by entering your destination on the app, these "companions," as the app calls them, will then receive a text message with a link to a webpage showing a real-time map of your location.
If your arrival is delayed or you divert from your trip's path, your headphones get unplugged or if your phone's sensors detect a sudden change in your speed, the app will ask you if everything's OK. You'll have 15 seconds to confirm to the app that you're fine and if not, it will proceed to notify your "companions." The app will also give a quick way to call the police in an event of an emergency.
The app also has an "I Feel Nervous" option to report areas in your commute that you deem unsafe and this information will be relayed to your "companions."
For commutes, walks and runs, especially in not-so-friendly areas, Companion's real-time monitoring, along with your trusted "companions," can be your best allies in preventing a crime.
4. LifeLine Response - Panic Button and Safety App
While other emergency alert apps require them to be opened to send out a distress message, Lifeline Response does it a little bit differently - it is activated by holding your finger on your phone's screen.
Once the app is activated and your finger is removed from the screen, it starts a series of countdown timers that culminates in a call from LifeLine Response's Verification Center.
If the emergency is verified by the center either via verbal confirmation, by a silent alarm code or by non-reply, LifeLine contacts 911 dispatchers directly and provides them your GPS coordinates. Your LifeLine contacts will likewise receive the same emergency information via text and email.
5. Kitestring: SMS based safety alert system
Another service with a slightly different approach is the "personal safety service" Kitestring.
Instead of activating the service's emergency signal through an app, Kitestring is a free text and web-based service that checks on you by sending text messages at set intervals. You then reply to the message or check in on its website to tell Kitestring that you're OK.
If for some reason you fail to check in, Kitestring will send your pre-selected contacts a customized text message.
Since Kitestring is purely text-based, it doesn't have an app and the service can be used even on non-smartphones as long as SMS is available. To activate it, just head over to its website to sign up. After signing up with your phone number and setting up your contacts, you can start a "trip" (the time KiteString is going to check on you) by texting Kitestring's number a duration. Kitestring will then check on you for that duration and will notify your contacts once your trip is over.
Kitestring is a good option since it's free and its novel way of checking on you instead of you sending out a signal is something that other alert systems don't have. It lacks any location sending feature but it's good to use in a pinch.
Bonus gadget: Revolar: the safety wearable
Similar to Silent Beacon's wearable, Revolar uses a little physical hardware gadget button to alert select contacts.
Revolar's wearable connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to the dedicated Revolar iOS or Android app on your smartphone. By piggybacking on your phone's GPS and connection, it can send your location and a variety of alerts through a sequence of button presses.
These sequences are as follows: one press = safe arrival, two presses = Yellow Alert/uneasiness, three presses = Red Alert/emergency/assistance required. All alert text messages are customizable and you can control which selected contacts will receive your location.
Revolar's hardware button trigger is certainly convenient, quicker and more discreet but its system requires the external wearable since it's not an optional add-on. The free app is merely used for pairing/setting up the device and you can't use it to send alerts on its own.
Bonus app for Android: Google Trusted Contacts
Android users can also take advantage of the recently released Google Trusted Contacts safety app. Google Trusted Contacts lets you select specific people on your contacts list so that you're covered every time you step out.
These people need to be individuals you trust since they'll be able to see some private details about your phone's activity in the app, such as its movement and connection status, battery level and whether you were active in the past hour.
Similar to the other location tracking safety apps, you can also share your location to your trusted contacts and alert them when you arrive at your destination. They'll even be able to request your location if they ever think you're in trouble. If you don't respond to this request within five minutes, the app will automatically share your location.
Currently, Google Trusted Contacts is an Android only app but an iOS version was announced and will be released soon. In the meantime, iPhone users can use Apple's location sharing app, Find My Friends.
Bonus app for Galaxy phones: Samsung Safety Assistance
It is not a well-known feature, but the Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, S7 and Note line of smartphones have a built-in safety and emergency tool called Safety Assistance.
To activate this feature on your Samsung phone, go to your Settings menu, tap Quick Settings, Privacy and Emergency, and turn on Send SOS Messages. Check the boxes for Send Pictures and Send Sound Recording and select "Manage Primary Contacts" to add your emergency contacts from your contact list
When this feature is turned on, you can press the Power button on your phone quickly three times to send out an SOS message to your emergency contacts. The text message includes your GPS location, photos taken from the front and rear cameras, as well as what the phone’s microphone picks up in a short recording.
Hopefully, more phone manufacturers will begin to incorporate these built-in lifesaving features as standard practice.