Protecting workers is the most important thing a business can do—especially lone workers such as social workers, real estate agents, and home healthcare providers who may face unknown clients and dangerous situations on the job each day. That’s why using a panic button app for workers who may need extra support checks a lot of boxes for employers. These apps are convenient, inexpensive and low-tech.
But is a panic button app the right choice for your business? If you’re interested in the safety of your workers, you may want to learn more about these low-cost solutions.
The Pitfalls of a Panic Button App
Panic button apps are applications installed on smartphones that are often used for lone workers. Usually, an administrator invites workers to download the app and set up an account. Depending on the app, the worker may have several options to summon help by pressing the panic button. In most cases, the worker must open the app and navigate to the correct screen to summon help.
Multiple steps to safety
Many of the apps on the market are too complicated to be used reliably. As one reviewer wrote after trying to use a panic button app, “On iOS, this requires five separate steps to navigate to send a panic alert. Good luck even for the young and healthy, especially in a panic situation.”
Even if the app advertises “one click” to summon help, it may be up to the worker to set up the shortcut on their phone which may be challenging.
Help is on the way—perhaps
Some panic button apps allow users to add a list of contacts that will be notified when the worker presses the panic button. So, if five people are pinged, who is responsible for assessing the situation and making sure help is sent to the worker who needs assistance? In emergencies, minutes matter. Some panic button apps do summon police directly which is a more practical feature but employees must still have the presence of mind to navigate the app to get help.
Several panic button apps feature multiple messaging systems. For instance, some apps allow the person in danger to send an email asking for help. In online ratings for these apps, one reviewer reported that these emails went to junk folders.
Some apps make the user hold an onscreen button for several seconds to ask for help. This may be impossible for someone who is hurt or in danger.
Remember to think clearly
Do you recall the last time you panicked? Perhaps it was after pushing your vehicle’s key fob alarm accidentally. Most of us have done this and then fumbled to stop the car’s shrieking alarm. How calm were you at that moment?
Or perhaps your situation was far more serious such as a lost child, fire or threatening person. Could you have calmly pulled out your phone, navigated to a panic button app and scrolled to the “button” screen? Probably not!
Psychologists call this the “flight or fight response.” When faced with danger, or any high stress situation, the heart begins racing and people begin exhibiting tunnel vision, disinhibition of reflexes, and shaking, among other symptoms.
Panic button apps require workers to think clearly, focus on their phone screen, unlock the phone, and complete a series of steps to summon aid. Obviously this is incredibly difficult when dealing with tunnel vision, shaking, and panic.
We think there’s a better way.
A Better Alternative to a Panic Button App
SafeSignal is an award-winning zero-button safety solution that works in conjunction with a tether (plugged into any iOS or Android smartphone) or a timed session—empowering your people to quickly send a distress signal to the AlertMedia Monitoring Center in an emergency. Unlike other lone worker safety apps, SafeSignal will work without requiring the user to unlock the phone. When someone pulls the SafeSignal tether or allows their timed session to expire, we will immediately dispatch law enforcement to the user’s precise location.
A visible deterrent
SafeSignal provides a strong deterrent to would-be threats. It shows aggressors that someone is actively monitoring the worker, who is just one tether or headphone pull away from immediate assistance. If a worker is in danger before a timed session ends, they can simply hit a panic button to alert authorities.
An audible alarm
If a threat does arise, pulling the tether or allowing the timed session to expire will immediately sound a loud alarm, signaling to anyone in the area that law enforcement is being notified. This can scare off the attacker and help de-escalate the situation.
When the worker pulls the tether, the app immediately notifies the AlertMedia Monitoring Center. While the lone worker might not be able to dial 9-1-1—or be in a mental state to clearly and efficiently convey relevant information—the AlertMedia monitoring center is manned with former 9-1-1 operators prepared to advocate for the lone worker and dispatch law enforcement.
Hands free when you need it most
Crucially, SafeSignal is completely hands-free. While other panic button solutions require the user to unlock their phone and open the app, the reality is that in many emergency situations, that’s not going to happen. Lone workers need a solution they can use to easily trigger an alarm even if they are under attack or on the run.
As one AlertMedia customer puts it, “SafeSignal allows someone in peril to replace fine motor skills with gross motor skills.”
Two Real-life Scenarios
Home health workers
In the U.S., nearly four million home healthcare workers show up to work where they can be injured lifting or moving patients; from slips, falls or trips; from injections and blood exposure; and by violence.
In one scenario, a home healthcare worker attends to an elderly female patient. The woman’s son arrives unannounced and begins to berate the worker about her care. At one point, the man walks threateningly toward the home healthcare worker. She holds up her smartphone with the SafeSignal tether attached and tells the man to stop his harassment or she will summon law enforcement. He backs down and the home healthcare worker quickly makes her exit. Once safely in her car, the worker reports the incident to her agency supervisor.
A recent study shows that women employed in Chicago-area hotels and casinos face sexual harassment at high levels. 58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers in the survey had been sexually harassed by a guest.
A housekeeping staff member pushes her cart down a deserted hallway in an upscale boutique hotel. She knocks on a room door and says, “Housekeeping.” She knocks again. Once she enters the room, a man walks out of the bathroom in a bathrobe. He tells her to shut the door. In one quick motion, the housekeeper rips the SmartSignal tether from her smartphone that she always keeps in the front pocket of her uniform. The SafeSignal alarm sounds loudly and the man flees. The police arrive quickly and find the would-be attacker in the basement hiding in the laundry facility.
Looking out for workers who face hazards on the job
Your most vulnerable workers need your support. In addition to creating a lone worker policy, we recommend investing in ways to keep lone workers safe. This includes using modern technology such as SafeSignal.