I’ve lived in New York City for all my adult life, and for the most part, I feel safe when I’m out walking around. But traveling alone through certain areas, especially late at night, often makes me nervous. I’d feel a lot safer, generally, if there was someone there making the walk with me.
Thankfully, if you own a mobile device, you’re never truly alone. If you have an ongoing concern for your personal safety, there are personal safety services that offer live monitoring, like the Lively Mobile Medical Alert ($49.99 on GreatCall.com, check price on Amazon) with Greatcall's 5Star Urgent Response service that connects you to a 24/7 dispatch service starting at $25 per month. But if you just want a way to warn your contacts if you fail to check-in or otherwise need to send out an SOS, there's no need to pay. Here are great free options for providing a little bit of extra piece of mind.
NOTE: If you believe yourself to be in a real emergency, your first line of defense should always be to contact emergency services at 911. No app is 100% foolproof, and cannot substitute for professional first responders.
Personal safety app bSafe, a free download for both Apple iOS and Android devices, contains an incredibly wide set of personal safety features. It can be used to privately alert friends that you’ve arrived at your destination, send info about your changing GPS location and even setup fake phone calls to slyly escape uncomfortable dates and similar situations.
When you need real help, bSafe offers an audible alarm and immediately starts broadcasting video captured by your phone and your GPS location. Information is continually collected and recorded, and is sharable with police should it prove necessary to do so. You can activate the alarm manually or you can use the Follow Me Timer mode, which will automatically send an emergency SOS message if you don't check in before the timer runs out. This is great for late nights or a little extra safety on your morning run when you only want to disturb people in an emergency.
Kitestring is a bit different: It’s a web-based service that checks in with you and sends an alert to pre-selected contacts should you fail to respond. Kitestring works through your inaction.
Kitestring check-ins are sent by SMS text, so the service works even with feature phones – you simply need to visit the free service’s website at kitestring.io. Once you have your phone set up, you can visit the Kitestring site to customize your SOS message and activate an SMS message broadcast that will be sent out in 30 minutes, 2 hours, 5 hours or 12 hours. Or, you can simply text the Kitestring service with the number of minutes in which to active your SMS broadcast. Once the time is up, you get a check in message and if for some reason you’re unable to respond to that text within 5 minutes, Kitestring will let your contacts know. You can even set a check-in word and duress codes, so Kitestring will keep working even if someone else gains control of your phone.
With Kitestring Free, you can take three trips and have one emergency contact. Upgrading to Kitestring Plus for $3 per month enable you to take unlimited trips, have an unlimited number of emergency contacts and Perrenial Mode, which enables you to be checked up on as frequently as every few minutes.
Life360 Family Locator
Sometimes safety can mean a daily check-in to ensure someone is following their daily routine. With Life360 Family Locator loaded on your family members' smartphones, you can set up Place Alerts so you'll always know when your child arrives home from school or at soccer practice. You can also check in on any family member's location. With the free service, you can designate two places for alerts and view location history for two days. Moving up to Life360Plus ($2.99 per month or $24.99 per year) lets you designate up to 100 places with unlimited alerts. And Life360Driver Protect adds crash detection, emergency response and roadside assistance, as well as reports on driving behavior ($7.99 per month or $69.99 per year).
Updated on 8/1/2018 with new app suggestions