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How to Choose a Personal Safety App

Most of us have, at one time or another, walked alone through a park at night and conjured hypothetical lines of defense if something bad were to happen. Though it’s good to be aware of your surroundings, it’s better to be prepared in advance. Today, you can be proactive with a new breed of personal safety apps designed explicitly to help in those moments that you feel most helpless. 

There have been some shocking statistics via a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which 44 percent of women reported experiencing some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime. Personal safety is no laughing matter, and it doesn’t discriminate to just women—men and women, and children and adults, can all fall victim to harassment and attacks. Thankfully our technology boom has given us more than just games and social networks—there is also a plethora of apps and technology that can actually keep us safer.

The development of GPS and other location-based technology has led-way to innovative new personal safety apps. But with so many on offer, how do you decide which app to download? 

Common Emergencies and the 10 Apps that Can Help  

While all the apps on our list are geared towards personal safety, some are better suited than others for specific situations. Below is a look at some of the most common emergencies people run into in their daily lives. It’s worth considering which dangers you’re most likely to encounter and then choosing an app that works best for that situation. 

Street Harassment 

In 2014, a video of a woman walking innocently through New York City went viral for the shocking number of men who threw harassing comments at her as she went about her business. Unfortunately, street harassment is commonplace, and it can happen in cities, suburbs, rural areas, and even on your own block. Hollaback and Kitestring are two services on our list that are especially suited for moments when your personal space is being encroached in public. 

Parties and Social Gatherings 

When we think about personal safety, we don’t always consider the different ways that feeling unsafe can rear its ugly head. Sadly, danger often comes from familiar circumstances. According to sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, 93% of juvenile victims knew the perpetrator, approximately 59% were acquaintances, 34% were family members, and only 7% were strangers. Safety apps that utilize networks of friends, such as bSafe and Circle of 6, are helpful for college parties and other social events that you’ll be attending with trusted friends nearby. 

Medical Emergencies 

Your personal safety can also encompass potential medical issues like epilepsy, allergies, or risk of stroke. You might be in a situation where speaking on the phone to emergency services will put you in danger. First Aid: American Red Cross and Noonlight are worth looking into if you have a health condition that can strike anywhere and need to alert first-responders of access first-aid tutorials. 

Personal safety for kids 

Your kids are sure to have a dramatically different high school experience then you did, and along with the pressure to get a smartphone at a young age, kids nowadays are exposed to more commercial exploitation than you ever were. Unfortunately kids might not know how to react and deal with certain awkward situations, and this is why personal safety apps are especially important for a younger age bracket. Look into Circle of 6 and Red Panic Button if you want to equip your kids with a reliable, easy-to-use safety app. 

Natural Disasters  

Personal safety doesn’t only address protection from harassment or attackers. Recently the need for emergency services in times of hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters is only too evident. If you want your call for help to reach further than your immediate emergency contacts, the app Red Panic Button allows you to send emergency text messages but also connects to your social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Email. It might sound like overkill to tweet during a potential disaster, but a simple tweet helped save an entire nursing home during Hurricane Harvey.

Here’s our list of the best personal safety apps:

1. bSafe 

  • Best for lone walks or social events 
  • Live “Follow Me” feature is great for parents 
  • Live stream to your guardian or contacts  

Your personal safety isn’t black and white. You could be on a date where you might feel slightly unsafe, or at a company party when you get that nagging feeling in your stomach. The app bSafe features a live “follow me” map feature as well as voice activation tools, automatic recordings, and even live streaming in addition to its SOS button that will alert contacts when you feel threatened. As a nice bonus, bSafe can create fake calls that provide an excuse to get up from the table and leave an uncomfortable situation. Like most of these personal safety apps, bSafe can only work if you’ve enabled your location services and designated invitations to your friends who have agreed to track your movements.

2. Circle of 6 

  • Best for high school and college students 
  • Send out distress message by simply tapping your phone 

Circle of 6 was designed with college and high school students in mind. With a friendly and easy-to-use interface, this app helps you or your kids escape tricky situations by allocating 6 friends of your choice. Two taps will send out 3 pre-set text messages to your friends. It can also plan a fake interruption in the form of a phone call in case you’re on a creepy date. The app contains pre-programmed national hotline numbers and a local number you can customize for campus security, police or 911.

3. Kitestring 

  • No need to download an app
  • Personalize distress alerts that dispatch to your emergency contacts  

If you don’t want to download an actual app, Kitestring works by sending you a simple text message whenever you’re on a date, a walk, or any sort of meeting. If you don’t respond, it will automatically send your emergency contacts a personalized alert. You don’t even need a smartphone to sign up.

4. Watch Over Me

  • No action needed--just set a timer and pre-program emergency contacts 
  • Record video with the simple shake of your phone  

One of the first factors to consider when choosing a personal safety app is which app will be the simplest to use in a potential emergency. The personal safety app Watch Over Me works by setting a simple timer in any situation you feel nervous. During this time your GPS is tracked and if you fail to hit the button ‘’I’m Safe’’ after the timer is up, an alert is sent out to your emergency contacts including your exact location. In the event of an active emergency, an alert can be set off by simply shaking your phone. The alert contacts all your emergency contacts, an alarm will be set off and the app will immediately begin video recording.

5. First Aid: American Red Cross

  • Best for those with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as hikers and road-trippers 
  • Access first-aid tutorials and safety resources even without WiFi 

Whether you have a pre-existing health condition or are venturing out on a hike, you could hardly do worse than the American Red Cross for resources and assistance. The First Aid app offers a number of features designed to help you in the event of a medical emergency: you can contact EMS directly through the app, as well as watch tons of video tutorials, step-by-step first-aid tips, and access pre-loaded safety information that works even when you don’t have WiFi. 

6. Silent Beacon 

  • Program friends, family, or 911 as contacts
  • Shares your distress message with a live GPS location 

With Silent Beacon, you can personalize emergency contacts into your phone and alert them with the simple tap of your screen. Your contacts can be friends, family members, or even the police, and you can easily change them based on where you are or what type of situation you expect to be in. This simple, effective app shares a distress message as well as your GPS location so that your contacts can respond quickly to the emergency. 

7. React Mobile 

  • Wearable key-ring allows you to request help even without access to your phone
  • Pre-program your own emergency contacts 

However much we love our smartphones, there are times we’ll be without them, and it’s important that in times of emergency there is a way to call for help beyond our trusty phones. The app React Mobile has a smart key-ring device that pairs with an app on your phone via Bluetooth, so you can get help faster if your phone’s locked or out of reach when you need help. In an emergency you can hit the button on the device which immediately alerts your emergency contacts.

8. Hollaback!

  • Best for those walking alone in public 
  • Submit photos of harassers to a prevention website 

According to Hollaback!, an estimated 80-90% of women have been harassed in public. Hollaback allows you to capture and upload a photo of your potential harasser "caught in the act" and submit the story to be recorded and mapped on ihollaback.org. The photo then gets shared publicly on a street harassment prevention website.

9. Red Panic Button 

  • Best for social media users
  • Fast and easy way to send distress alerts to anyone in your social network

Personal safety doesn’t only address protection from harassment or attackers. Recently the need for emergency services in times of hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters is only too evident. If you want your call for help to reach further than your immediate emergency contacts, the app Red Panic Button allows you to send emergency text messages but also connects to your social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Email.

10. SafeTrek

  • Best for anyone walking alone 
  • Contacts the local police 

SafeTrek is another straightforward app that’s easy to use in the spur of the moment. There’s one feature—you hit the button in the middle of the screen at any time you’re feeling unsafe. Once you’re safe again you hit a 4-digit pin number, and if you don’t enter this number the app will automatically contact the local police.

Personal Safety is Worth the Cell Phone Space  

Personal safety might be a difficult subject to approach, but preparing for risks and keeping your mind at ease when you’re out is invaluable. Today, there are apps designed for lone commuters, night-walkers, singles, college students, children, and more. With the click of a button or a shake of your phone, you can send distress signals to your contacts or the authorities and get assistance before things escalate, which could make all the difference in the world.

How we created this
list
Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.