Emergency? Who You Gonna Call?

Payphones have gone the way of steam engines and spats. Concern about security has not. Colleges have responded by installing emergency call stations known for their blue lights. Adults old enough to remember rotary phones can use their landlines and lifelines.

Leave it to the Internet generation to develop an alternative.

Security apps for smartphones have become a booming business. They provide a wide range of functions, from receiving emergency notifications to connecting you with commercial monitoring teams through a subscription service. Apple’s App Store alone lists 98 apps in the emergency-alert category.

What’s your best bet if you want to use your smartphone as a mobile substitute for blue-light boxes? Here’s a short list of apps, some free, some not, starting with passive software and advancing toward interactive systems.

  • CodeRED Mobile Alert. Designed to keep you informed, this app taps into the national CodeRED Emergency Notification System to alter subscribers of public safety issues.
  • Emergency. The utility allows the direct dialing to four main emergency services (general, fire, police, medical).
  • SOS Panic Button. This app features a large panic button that, when pressed, will use the phone’s GPS tracking feature to notify friends and family of your location by telephone and email.
  • Bluelight. The app notifies your friends and family when you don’t arrive at your destination as planned.
  • SOS Response. This is for users who want their smartphones to act more like hardwired home alarm and blue-light systems. The app sends photos and GPS information to a monitoring team, who then alert responders.
  • MyForce. Another subscription-based service, this app sends reports to alarm monitors who, the developer says, will connect to 911 dispatchers “after an emergency is validated.”

A word of caution about the technology. Anyone can use a blue-light emergency call button or home-alarm system. Only those who can afford a smartphone and the monthly fee can access some of these subscription services. And what happens if your phone can’t find a signal?