With the recent, horrible, kidnapping and death of Realtor Beverly Carter in Arkansas after showing a vacant home to an unknown person, personal safety is first and foremost on people’s minds today.
As it should be. Every day.
Unfortunately, it can take events like these to take a hard look at how we and our brokerage (and/or our company) handle issues like personal safety for real estate agents. With most agents now carrying mobile devices of some nature and new technologies being released all the time, there are a number of materials, devices, companies and apps out there for you to choose from when deciding how to protect oneself.
Here are a few that we’ve uncovered:
When discussing safety devices and avenues to pursue, you can look at it as an individual investment or on a broader scale.
Guardly is a company that is all about safety. It has all kinds of safety solutions for businesses, organizations and individuals. One of the most popular offerings for individuals is the Guardly Safety App. Available for every smart device (yes, even BlackBerrys and Windows phones), the Guardly app offers automatic connection with emergency services, real-time notification to designated people, real-time location tracking and an emergency beacon. Although download is free, a monthly subscription for most of Guardly’s features is $1.99, with a one-year subscription of $19.99.
Secure Show recently made its debut at Real Estate Connect San Francisco. Secure Show can be used by offices or individuals. Basically, you start by purchasing a verification, either singularly or in packs. Whoever you wanted to verify is then sent a verification link, their cellphone number is confirmed, and the prospect is walked through a process where they scan and upload their driver’s license, passport or state ID. Secure Show verifies that the photo matches the identification, while a third-party company checks the ID against other databases.
Note: This is not a criminal background check. Normal turnaround time is estimated to be 30 minutes or less, so you’ll have to plan ahead. Once the prospect’s identity is verified and your identity is verified, you both receive notifications with photos of each other and a special identifying code (to match).
Realtor Safety materials from NAR
Technically, today is the last day of Realtor Safety Month, but really every month should be Realtor Safety Month. The National Association of Realtors has put together a collection of materials, including suggested office safety forms and tips from other organizations for Realtor safety.
The hot new thing in technology is wearable technology. You may have already seen people walking around with smart watches from several different companies. (Most, if not all, smart watches have 911-calling capability plus geolocation.) Now that’s being extended to other devices crafted specifically for your safety.
Cuff isn’t just a cuff, it’s a small device that fits into several cuff versions, and also a necklace. Billed as “smart jewelry,” Cuff has a benign features, like phone notification and activity tracking. However, Cuff also has a built-in safety feature that, when pressed, sends out a message to designated friends and family with your location, as well as audio that the device picks up. Cuff is available for preorder right now, with expected delivery in March 2015.
First Sign actually has a collection of products meant for personal safety. They have a mobile app, to be released in October 2014, which helps alert friends and family if you don’t “check in” with the app within a certain time. The app is also meant to work with a number of First Sign products, including a pod that, with extra monitoring charges of around $5 a month, has the ability to detect trauma — if it’s worn in a headband, it can alert to possible head trauma; if worn around the wrist, trauma suffered from a fall. From their site, it appears that they’re looking to partner with other companies to extend the uses of their First Sign pod.
Stiletto is the newest of the three discussed here. In fact, the crowdsourced fundraising just began Sept. 21! Stiletto is meant to look just like any piece of jewelry. However, the device has a number of features, beyond its looks, that make it attractive: built-in microphone, the ability to “speak” to 911 when you can’t, enhanced indoor location technology, route planning, multiple alert systems, and more. If funded, estimated delivery is March 2015.
Apps for your safety
There are a number of apps out there that can assist in keeping you safe, or at least alerting people if you’re ever in danger. You can always take a look online or in your respective app stores to find the most popular/highly rated to see if any suit you. Some apps we took a look at include:
- SOS – StaySafe app — Only available for Android, if you shake the device or click the power button three times, your designated contacts will be alerted, along with real-time GPS location tracking of your phone.
- ASAPP SOS app — Although originally created for students, this can be used by adults as well. Available for both iPhone and Android, features include SOS alerts to text, email and social media, as well as 911 prompts and location tracking.
- bSafe app — Both Apple- and Android-friendly, the bSafe app has an alert button to notify select friends and family, with a video recording feature included. You can also have people “Follow You” via GPS (so if you divert course, they’ll know), as well as a Fake Call option, to get you out of unwanted or suspect meetings.
- Emergensee app — With one tap, you can send audio, visual and GPS information to whomever you choose. You can also use the app to live-chat with emergency responders.
- Watch Over Me app — Watch Over Me does three things: It sends out emergency alerts if you fail to check in, triggers an emergency alert just by shaking your phone and alerts you if you are entering certain high-crime areas (but only in select cities). Download is free, but unlimited contacts, emergency “events,” etc., will cost.
- Agents Armor — Created with real estate agents in mind, Agents Armor is available to individual agents as well as brokerages. You have to pay (subscription-based pricing) to download the app, but once downloaded, you have access to one-button emergency service dialing, several kinds of alerts to your select contacts, GPS location detection, designated check-in times, and more.
Safety for your possessions
If you’ve been holding open houses, you may have heard (or seen firsthand!) objects can “walk off” if left unsupervised. Sometimes they’re the homeowners’ prescription medications; other times, they may be your own purse or briefcase. To alert yourself as to the whereabouts of your personal items, there are a few gadgets out there that may help.
Tile is a device that you can attach to pretty much anything — keys, purses, computer cases, etc. Powered by Bluetooth, Tile has a 100-foot range. Working within the app, however, it also records the last place it was, and also alerts you when you’re getting close. So, if you’re not sure whether you’ve misplaced your keys or someone has actually walked off with them, you can trigger the app and find out. Currently, Tile is available only for iOS devices, although they’re always releasing updates and new features.
Charm Alarm is actually two devices in one: a wearable charm and a smartcard. You place the smartcard in your wallet or purse, and wear the charm. If you get too far away from the card, both the charm and the smartcard will give an audible warning, and the charm will also alert you with lights and vibration. You don’t even need a smart device to use this!
TrackR is a not-yet-released disc, similar to Tile, that attaches to keyrings, purses or anything else you’ll want to track. Using the TrackR app on either your iPhone or Android, you will be able to make the TrackR device ring so you can have sound alerts, as well a distance indicator. One of the most interesting aspects of TrackR is the crowd GPS function. Basically, if your keys or purse walk off, and anyone else who uses TrackR is within range, you’ll get an alert and a GPS update on where your item is.
We may never be fully prepared when the unexpected strikes, but perhaps one or several of the above devices will help in your research for continued personal safety as a real estate agent.
Do you have any other suggestions?