SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As a woman who often needs to walk around the city alone, utilizes rideshare services to get around the Bay Area, and likes to meet her friends out at local bars for happy hour, I've definitely felt unsafe at times.
Did you know that there are numerous apps dedicated to making you feel safer?
They can't prevent you from being attacked, but they can do a lot of other useful things including alert the police, tell loved ones where you are, and document evidence.
I tried some of the most popular "personal safety apps" available. You can see four of my favorite below:
The Noonlight app is free to install and start using on both iPhone and Android. However, it usually requires a monthly subscription which ranges from as little as $3 to as high as $10 depending on what features you want to use. The main idea behind this app is that you have a big button on your screen which you hold down when you're in trouble. An alert is sent to Noonlight dispatchers who will contact you to find out your emergency. If you don't answer your texts or calls from Noonlight, they'll send police to your location. If you're safe, you can quickly cancel the alert using a 4-digit code you create.
Noonlight offers a variety of upgrades, including linking to Lyft and Uber. This allows dispatchers to have your rideshare information whenever you send an alert during a ride. They're able to provide emergency crews with your rideshare's license plate number, make and model. Noonlight also allows you to link to your Apple watch or Alexa device, so you can call an alert hands free.
This type of app is great for when walking alone or using a rideshare service.
Apps similar to Noonlight that you may want to check out include: Parachute, Rave Panic Button, Red Panic Button
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The BSafe App is also free to download, but you'll need to pay for its most appealing features like the live streaming service. BSafe relies on a network of your friends and family to be your "guardians". You can use the app to ask friends to follow you home by watching on the map. You can send an alert to your connections when you feel unsafe and allow them to see a livestream of whatever is happening. The livestream converts to a video file that auto-saves on your phone as evidence (should you need it). The creator of the app says he came up with the concept after his daughter was attacked by some friends.
It's ideal for tech savvy people willing to pay the monthly fee.
This type of app is great for parties or meet ups when you start to feel uncomfortable.
Apps similar to BSafe include: Circle of 6, Parachute, GuardianX
Life360 was created in the Bay Area. It's free to download for iphone and Android. Upgrades will get you more bells and whistles. Life360 allows you to track your friends and family using GPS. The app will send you notifications when your contacts leave or arrive at certain locations. For example, you can use the app to alert you when your kids make it to school or soccer practice. Automatic alerts eliminate the need for nagging calls or texts. Parents with teenagers may find the driving behavior tracker handy: you can see when your kids are speeding, driving irresponsibly, or even texting while driving!
Apps similar to Life360 you may want to try: Glympse, Trusted Contacts, Find my Friends
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Kitestring isn't really an app at all, but you do need a phone! Kitestring is a text service which you register for online. It works on ANY phone that has texting capabilities. It's free for 3 uses a month with one emergency contact. Or, $3 monthly will get you unlimited usage and unlimited contacts.
This is the most "no-frills" service I tried but among the ones I liked best. You can tell the Kitestring website or the text number to check in on you at a certain time. If you don't answer within an allotted timeframe, Kitestring will send an alert to all of your emergency contacts. It will prompt them to try to get in touch with you.
Once you register online there's really no need for a computer. Be sure to save the Kitestring number in your phone. Then, as an example, you can simply text "23min" and the service will check on you in 23 minutes.
Kitestring doesn't alert authorities for you. It looks like a regular text message. I think this is the ideal service for anyone going on a first date (it's more subtle than a big panic button app). It's also great for running or a hiking alone, and road trips!
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Try the free version
Most of the safety apps available are free to download & start using, but usually require a monthly subscription fee to use more advanced features. I found signing up for a free trial subscription allowed me to test all the features I thought I might need. Just remember to delete your subscription if you don't like it!
Practice using the app
Invest time early & it will pay off in the long term. Know your family's safety app inside and out. Try all the features when you first download it & input all the data it needs right away so you don't forget to do it later. You'll want all the correct information stored on the app in case of a real emergency.
Make it a habit
Just simply downloading a safety app won't help you out in an emergency! You need to have it open and ready to use when you're in a sticky situation. Make it a habit, and use it every time you walk alone at night or every time you're in an Uber. It's like insurance: hopefully you don't have to use it, but you'll be happy you had it open if something unexpected happens!
See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.
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