Smartphones: The ideal defensive weapon

Last November, when I was finally unfrozen from that glacier, I bought an iPhone. Since then I’ve been playing around with smartphone apps.

Cell phones and smart phones appeal strongly to my sense of how we ought to approach safety. They allow us to make connections, broadcast our whereabouts, and document the behavior of others. They tie us into a network of human beings and observable reality–a better route to safety, I believe, than hiding in bunkers, constructing echo chambers of paranoid fantasy, and carrying weapons.

You can see the range of “safety” that app developers envision if you simply Google “smart phone safety.” You’ll find apps that alert medical professionals to your blood type; apps that track where your kids are driving, and if they’re texting while they do; apps that send out an alert if you fall down and can’t get back up. There’s even an app to help you find a sober driver after the Superbowl.

Not every app is a must for everyone. College students face certain kinds of risk, real estate agents and home healthcare professionals face others. So it’s a good plan to ask your friends what they’re using, keep an eye out for new apps, and test things that look promising. You want apps that are easy to use, in the kinds of situations you might really need to use them in.

Three apps currently on my phone:

Circle of 6, a free app developed for a contest sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Circle of 6 lets you designate six trusted contacts and then, by touching a single button, send them various types of messages: “I need an interruption. Please call my phone.” “I need to be picked up right now. Please come get me” (along with GPS coordinates). The app lets you do these things silently and quickly. It also has options for emergency help,  telling your contacts you need to talk to someone, and connecting to violence hotlines.

Qik. This free video recording and uploading app lets you integrate your Qik account with YouTube, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and/or email, so that whenever you stop recording, the video is automatically uploaded or shared. Qik is popular among those who document policie activity, since the evidence of any misconduct is automatically preserved even if the authorities take or destroy your camera. I like being able to tell someone, “Your behavior will be witnessed by more people.”

Pocket First Aid and CPR. As a martial arts instructor and a mom, I had to have this one. It’s not a substitute for regular CPR training and certification, but if I needed CPR, I’d far rather my rescuers had this $1.99 app than nothing. Produced by the American Heart Association, it has quick, clear, step-by-step instructions for administering CPR. It can also guide you through responses to other medical emergencies: allergic reactions, choking, low blood sugar, seizures, stroke, amputation (“save the detached body part”), burns, head and spine injuries, poisoning, snake bites, and much, much more.

I’d love to hear from others about the apps they are using, and how they function in real-life emergencies.