Using Technology for your Personal Safety

As we approach the anniversary of the death of Beverly Carter, during the month we spotlight REALTOR® Safety awareness, it’s as imperative as ever to be aware of ways to protect your personal safety. In 2014, in reaction to Beverly Carter’s death, I penned an article about Technology and Real Estate Safety. Technology changes quickly, so I’ll once again take a look at brokerage and personal options currently available to help REALTORS® stay safe.

Mobile devices are ubiquitous and widely used by real estate professionals. The map app on your phone can be used to research local neighborhoods you plan to show homes in, to plan escape routes and to locate nearest police and/or hospitals. You can also use your phone to take pictures of the vehicle license plate, photo ID and person you’re meeting at a property before a showing. This information can be texted or e-mailed to a safe contact, to be used in case of emergency. Certain Samsung models even have a Samsung Safety Assistance feature, where you can enable “send help” messages for emergency situations.

Sometimes, however, you’ll find yourself in situations where your phone may not be convenient to use (whether you’re out of range or out of battery). For these situations, you may want to explore devices such as NextAlert’s emergency contact system or a satellite communication device, like DeLorme’s AG-009871-201 inReach SE.

One disclaimer: As you read through these and decide which apps and technology fit your business best, please remember this.  Although I’m a huge champion of technology and its everyday use by REALTORS®, especially in keeping REALTORS® safe, technology can never replace knowledge, instinct, awareness, and working with local law enforcement officers and your local real estate community to ensure widespread safety education and protocols.

OFFICE-WIDE SAFETY
Safety should start at an office level first. There have been a number of initiatives that have launched for brokerages since Beverly Carter’s death, including Open Door Partners’ “Meet Me Here First,” which encourages local real estate offices to open their doors to others to provide a safe space where everyone can meet. 

Another resource a brokerage should use is the National Association of REALTORS® collection of materials, which include suggested office safety forms and tips from other organizations for REALTOR® safety. You can find those here.

On a technological side, there are a couple of different identification systems that can be looked into as an investment for safety.

Secure Show
(http://www.secureshow.com)
Secure Show is a real estate-specific company, basing itself around identification verification. You start by purchasing verification, either singularly or in packs. Whomever you want to verify is sent a verification link, their cell phone number is confirmed, and they are walked through a process where they scan and upload their driver’s license, passport or State ID. Secure Show verifies their photo matches their identification, while a third-party company checks their ID against other databases (though, not a criminal background check). Normal turnaround time, per Secure Show, is “30 minutes or less.” Once the prospect’s identity is verified and your identity is verified, you both receive notifications with photos of each other and a special identifying code (to match).

VerifyPhotoID
(https://verifyphotoid.com)
VerifyPhotoID is a company that offers an app to screen prospects. The app scans a prospect’s photo ID, verifying their name, address, DMV photo plus age, height and hair color. It also checks the ID against a national sex offender list.  Appointment details – who, when and where — are also shared with partners, spouses and brokers automatically.

WEARABLE SAFETY
Wearables vary from simple fitness trackers to sophisticated smart watches. While most fitness trackers don’t have safety features installed, smart watches have the capability of calling 911 plus geo-location. 

Apps for Google Wear Watches include the Emergency Alert for Wear and the Emergency Alert button.

Apps compatible with Apple watches include the HelpAround app. Also, the newest update for Apple watch due out this fall, watchOS 3, will include the ability to automatically call for help so, no matter where you are in the world, you can initiate a call with local emergency services. The service, SOS, can also send a message to emergency contacts.

Other personal safety devices available on the market include Revolar (https://revolar.com), the React Mobile Sidekick (http://reactmobile.com), and Silent Beacon (http://silentbeacon.com).  These are devices you can clip to a belt loop or to a key ring that, along with an app, signals distress to outside contacts, among other safety features.
 
If you’re looking to make some noise, look no further than the soon-to-be-released SIREN ring (http://sirenring.com), the Robocopp Sound Grenade+ (https://www.robocopp.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html), or any of Vigilant’s personal protection systems (https://www.vigilantpps.com/collections/personal-alarm). When triggered, these devices emit ear-splitting, high-decibel alarms.

Looking for something more fashionable? You may have to wait a little while longer, but keep an eye out for these companies and their wearables: the Safelet bracelet (http://www.safelet.com), Stiletto’s charms (http://stiletto.is), ROAR for Good Athena’s jewelry (http://www.roarforgood.com/#what-is-athena), the Mangos Ring (https://www.mangosring.com), the Nimb smart ring (http://nimb.com), and Leaf Wearables (https://leaf-wearables.myshopify.com). Note: While it may be tempting to invest in one of these devices right away, patience may well be a virtue, as several of these companies are start-ups.

APPS FOR SAFETY
There are a number of apps out there that can assist in keeping you safe, or at least alert people if you’re ever in danger. You can always take a look online or in your respective app stores to find the most popular/highly rated to see if any suit you. Some apps to consider are:

  • HomeSnap Pro’s safety timer
  • Glympse: Shares your GPS location with whomever you choose. (https://www.glympse.com)
  • bSafe: Shares location and offers a SOS feature. (http://getbsafe.com)
  • SafeTrek: Creates a ‘safe button’ you have to hold or release depending on how safe you feel and contacts your local authorities. (https://www.safetrekapp.com)
  • StaySafe Personal Safety: Allows you to estimate the length of your appointment using the app. If you fail to check in at the end of the appointment, the app will alert your emergency contacts… even if your phone is damaged or switched off. (https://personalapp.staysafeapp.com)
  • Patronus: Automatically reroutes your call to the nearest 911 system and includes your location; also allows location sharing with designated contacts. (https://patronusapp.com)
  • Emergensee: One tap sends audio, visual and GPS information to whomever you choose. You can also use the app to live-chat with emergency responders. (http://emergensee.com)

The unexpected can strike at any time, but through preparation, education, constant
vigilance, and perhaps even with one or more of the above suggestions, the risks to REALTOR® personal safety can begin to lessen. Stay safe out there! 

Tara L. Christianson is Technology & Training Director for Century 21 Redwood Realty. Tara can be found at http://www.techwithtlc.com and contacted via email at tara@techwithtlc.com.