Our smartphones help us discover the best restaurants, circumvent traffic for the fastest route to work, and stay connected with loved ones. And there’s an app to help you do just about everything else with the device you carry in your pocket, including turning your phone into a personal security device.
Of course, there’s no substitute for common sense when it comes to protecting yourself at parties, on city streets, or while out for a run. Always be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts to stay away from dicey situations, and let a trusted friend know where you’re going and when you’ll return.
We found seven apps that make personal safety easy, and add a host of bells and whistles (sometimes literally). These apps can help scare potential attackers away, record information, and notify friends or family that you could be in danger. Forget about the old “call me when you get home” trick — let’s see how personal safety has stepped into the digital age.
1. bSafe Personal Safety App (Android, iOS)
After you download bSafe, you select a handful of “Guardians.” This is your personal network of protectors who will be notified of your arrival at a destination and act as your lifeline if you’re in trouble.
With the GPS feature enabled, your Guardians can track your exact location at any time. If you tap the red SOS button on the app, a bright light shines on your phone, an alarm sounds, and your Guardians are contacted. It’s then up to the Guardians to call the police, if they deem it necessary. Your phone even begins recording audio and video to use as a record for the police later. This feature-packed app is entirely free, making it a favorite of college students and anyone looking for personal security on a budget.
2. Circle of 6 (Android, iOS)
This free app lets you communicate easily and discretely with six family members or friends of your choosing to help you prevent violence before it happens. Press the Car, Phone, or Chat icon when you need a helping hand and someone can pick you up, call you, or text you right away. The Danger button gives you the option to call hotlines for either sexual or domestic abuse victims. This app seems most helpful if you’re on a bad date or find yourself stuck at a party and need a ride.
3. Guardly (Android, iOS, Blackberry 10)
Designed for college students and corporate office security, this app can send emergency alerts to pre-selected loved ones. The premium subscription, which is $1.99/month or $19.99/year, unlocks a host of capabilities, including a personal alarm function and a 911 easy-call feature. The premium app enables GPS and Bluetooth tracking of your location, so loved ones, building security, or the police can find you anywhere.
4. Watch Over Me (Android, iOS)
The paid version of Watch Over Me can send email, text, or Facebook alerts to your pre-selected emergency network if you’re in trouble. It also has GPS tracking of your location and a “report crime” function. Set the phone to “watch over” you for a pre-determined amount of time or until you reach a specific location. If you don’t check in when you should, the phone alerts the emergency contacts you select. The app can also notify you when you’ve entered an area perceived unsafe, so you can put your own instincts on high alert and get ready to use the app if necessary. If you’re in danger, shake your phone to trigger an emergency alert and begin recording what is happening. The free app “watches over” you for five minutes, which is OK in some situations. But you get a longer time with the feature-rich premium version, which we think is well worth $9.99 for a 3-month subscription or $23.99 for a full year.
5. Kitestring (SMS-based)
For just $3/month, Kitestring checks in with you at pre-programmed times and alerts your selected network if you don’t reply to the text message. This SMS-based service is easy to use and doesn’t require a smartphone. It’s better than relying on friends or family to manually ask for check-ins when you’re on a blind date, a run, or in an unfamiliar place. The free plan provides eight check-ins per month and connects with one emergency contact, while the premium service offers unlimited contacts and unlimited check-ins, making it well worth the subscription fee.
6. The ADT Monitoring Canopy App (Android, iOS)
The free version of ADT Monitoring’s Canopy app works well as a stand-alone personal safety app, with an alarm function, the ability to call 911 with one touch, and virtual check-ins to your emergency network. You can sync the premium version with your ADT monitored home security system for added protection, or even pay for Chaperone, a live-response advisor you can call if you feel unsafe and may need emergency services.
7. SafeTrek (Android, iOS)
SafeTrek provides a great way to feel safe in a questionable situation. Open this easy-to-use app and you’ll see a blue “safe” button, which you’ll hold your thumb down on. When you’re safe, release your thumb and then enter your 4-digit pin. If you need help from the police, just release your thumb from the safe button without entering the pin afterward and help will be on its way.
High-Tech Ways to Feel Safer
Whether you’re a student, city-dweller, or suburbanite who likes to shop through Craigslist, these personal safety apps all provide an added sense of security for anyone in new, unusual, and potentially dangerous situations. Here’s a list of free apps that can call for help if you’re in danger.
Elli Bishop is a security expert from SafeWise.com. SafeWise is a community-focused safety organization committed to increasing safety education, awareness, and preparedness.
Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.