AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new way to let people know you need help in an emergency hits the market this week.
It’s called Rally for Safety and is styled like a “panic button” that connects with an app on the user’s phone.
Founders Mike Murphy and Chris Espe used their training as Army Rangers to develop the device/app combination. The pair are now based in Austin.
“Our mission is to help fight back against sexual assault, rape and other dangerous situations, specifically on college campuses,” he explained.
“My time in the Army really did teach me that keeping people safe would be the most important thing in my life,” Murphy said.
Users can send an alert to customized groups including family, friends, law enforcement, and people nearby who have also downloaded the app.
The alerts are activated by pressing the device three times rapidly. Users can also send check-in messages and if the person does not respond in a certain amount of time, it alerts the customized group.
“It really is safety on demand,” he said.
Murphy and Espe are testing the product with a pilot program at the University of Texas at Dallas, hoping to expand to other colleges across Texas and the nation.
“Our goal is to get people help as quickly as humanly possible and that’s what Rally is,” Murphy explained.
Some law enforcement agencies around the state said they see value in apps like this, but there is no substitute for calling 911 in an emergency.
“If it is a life-threatening emergency for you or anyone else that is involved you should always dial 911,” said Amarillo Police Department Sgt. Carla Burr said.
“There’s all kinds of apps out there that are helpful and can make us a better safer community,” Burr stated. “So, what you need to do as a citizen, if you decide you want to use this new app, is know what it’s capable of and what it’s not capable of.”
iPhone users can connect to 911 by pressing the power button five times.
“We’re using a community approach, so really like the community watch for the 21st century,” Murphy explained. “The GPS alert goes out to friends and family that you’ve pre-selected but also the Rally community, so other members of the app whether you know them or not.”
The button costs $25 and the basic app is free. In order to connect with emergency responders, users will need to upgrade to a premium paid version.