Jackie Smith from VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLA could not quite believe what happened when his tractor hit the stump that overturned his heavy machine. The overturned tractor became a deathtrap for Jackie, pinning him from escaping.
As Jackie was working alone, so he was isolated from the help he now desperately needed.
What options did he have?
Call for help on his cellphone? That’s what most of us would do right? Sadly in Jackie’s case this was impossible. He was trapped in a position that was out of reach of his cellphone. We don’t know if it had signal, we don’t know if it would have worked, but to have it there and to have a source of communication or aid just out of reach must have been agonizing.
Yell for help. If a worker cannot access their communication device, they are effectively at the mercy of fate, footfall and raw determination in hoping that passers by or search parties can locate them before it’s too late.
Fortunately in Jackie’s case he was found by his wife who heard his cries for help 5 hours later and called 911. A bruised and exhausted Jackie Smith was taken for hospital treatment and suffered no serious injuries.
Why Jackie’s phone couldn’t help him.
Let’s break this down a little. Jackie could have called 911, or some other helper/responder to his aid;
IF he could have reached his device.
IF it had sufficient signal to generate and maintain a call.
IF the battery had enough charge to make the call.
Since the phone was essentially inaccessible, the effect of the other 2 are immaterial in this case, however each case is quite different.
Problem 1. Accessibility/Reach.
Heading out to work and forgetting your cellphone immediately renders it useless. Having it in a purse or your vehicle in the event of an attack or accident renders it useless. It is a source of instant relief from anxiety that we have a means to communicate with a source of help or counsel in the event it is required. Not having access can in the same way be a source of significant distress and anxiety.
Problem 2. Keys, cellphone … go
We have something of an reflex understanding of the above, so most often we will be programmed to subconsciously pack our cellphone before leaving the house/office etc… This reflex action is even more pronounced in many smartphone users due to the social and leisure implications brought by social feeds on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. We have it packed, we know where it is, that’s all we need, we need not think beyond that, right? Wrong…simply having with us will simply not be enough in the event of certain emergencies arising.
Problem 3. Battery death.
With reliance on cellphones, our communication with the outside world is dependent on POWER. That moment when the power goes out in the home and yet some still end up attempting to switch on light switch, or flicking the kettle to boil water – often times while holding a torch whose small beam of light serves as a reminder of this folly. (….ok SOME of us have!) We get something of the same realization when the battery on our phone dies, and depending on where we are and what situation we find ourselves in, this moment of clarity can carry with it a weight of panic and fear. A dead battery means even the latest cellphone models become little more than shiny objects of desire of ZERO benefit in a broken down or upturned vehicle.
Problem 4. GPS might get you there, but can it get you back?
What we mean is that the smartest of devices may have extremely accurate GPS location information, but it’s a closed loop. This means that virtually no-one else has this information including most 911 centers, so how that information transfers or becomes useful in forming an emergency response is of paramount importance. As such GPS information has great uses for navigation and even geographical situation awareness, but if the worst happens all too often the loop stops at your smartphone!
Problem 5. Signal
The frantic waving of phones at a concert or city event in an attempt to access the limited and struggling signal gives a strong indication of how we are compelled to “feed” our phones, and indeed of our ever more prevalent need for connection. People contort to raise their devices a few inches above others heads or out of a moving car window to get some unspoken and secret advantage in securing a place in the list of allowed and accessible connections. Looking at this situation in context the fear of losing connection from non-essential social groupings is in reality of more concern to smartphone users than perhaps it should be in the scheme of things. The loss of signal in a threatening or dangerous or emergency situation however, could well be truly terrifying.
What to know:
GuardianMPS have years of experience in protecting and advising mobile workers on their personal safety. As such we took an overview of the 5 problems listed above to offer some real world and practical advise for securing maximum protection for workers and their teams via their cellphones and outlined (in italics) some of the ways GuardianMPS users are protected from the unexpected.
Always Leave with a charged battery.
A close second would be to ensure you have the means to charge to full charge within the next few hours – car charger, portable battery pack, spare wall charger etc… We recommend both. Ensure you have the means to charge/topup your cellphone when in the field. Ensure your phone is accessible or in reach. On a client home visit, keep your cellphone/smartphone on your person or in a pocket, not your purse or in the car.
“On a meet=keep it near and discreet.”
GuardianMPS customers have a discreet panic button configured to interact with an app to raise the alarm on a situation where help is needed. If the device is in a purse or the car the worker would perhaps be more reliant on a “ruse” to access it…accessibility is key. In a vehicle accident a device in a loose purse, briefcase or in the trunk may become inaccessible to a trapped driver/passenger.
As in the subject of this article; Consider the importance of being able to reach your lifeline in the event of an emergency.
GPS –Get Position Shared
(open the loop)
GPS navigation is incredibly helpful in helping workers around unknown or strange areas. It will give clear pinpointed turn-by-turn guidance on how to reach a destination or site, but as described above it is a closed loop in terms of how that information transfers or becomes useful in forming an emergency response. It is crucial that if GPS has a fix on your location that this information is made known to further individuals, thereby creating a more open loop system. If your workers’ location can be shared through some method then this will form the basis for a response in the event that they fail to check in or become unresponsive to communication. Some ideas to consider.
- Take a screenshot of the final GPS destination as you arrive and send to a team member in a message/email.
- Open the GPS location tool and if available, send a team member the exact GPS co-ordinates of the final destination.
- Use an GPS sharing network where groups or other workers can be made aware of your location – warning – these will be data dependent.
GuardianMPS smartphone users will have GPS built into all their interactions when checking in/out and when raising panic activations. This data is visible by our Central Station Monitoring and the worker’s team members within a management portal. If this information is required in a real emergency or threat the Central Station can relay this information with clarity, along with all other precursory data to 911 to facilitate a rapid and timely response.
Seconds count in emergency…a 24/7 Central Station ensures efficient and accurate knowledge transfer to 911 eliminating closed loop problems.
Know your signal levels.
Phone signal level should be established as part of an iterative risk assessment when working in remote or poorly serviced areas. If you know in advance or throughout the course of working in an area that phone signal is bad, this must be recorded and made known to assigned workers. If there is no signal and work must be carried out in such an area, this information must be communicated to your team, what, where, who, for how long. If a worker does not check back in, use this manual information to inform your investigation. Knowing destination and details as described above can dramatically reduce a search area even without any electronic location technology.
Not having a means to communicate rapidly and provide essential location information in an emergency can lead to injuries, worsening of injuries and even death. Consider the importance of all the ways a cellphone can provide you a lifeline and WHERE IT CAN FAIL. An awareness of limitations is infinitely better than ignorance and suffering the consequences. Consider common-sense planning around the points of failure as listed above to minimize the chances of these occurring when a cellphone is needed most. Consider a mechanism to make your location and your intended work schedule known to your team. This detail will also be invaluable information to 911 responders.
GuardianMPS are often asked how workers can be located without GPS, without data and even without any signal at all and there ARE ways to do this.
Our clients will be trained to check in with detailed information about who they are visiting, address, location and any known or recognizable landmarks (road intersections, stores, geographical features) and expected duration. Even going into a signal black-spot, the worker’s movements are known along with the journey and expected duration of the assignment. If the worker checks back in within the assigned duration, the call is completed. If not, our system automatically raises an overrun incident, notifies 24/7 Central Station Monitoring – and notify the worker’s team.
For more information on how GuardianMPS can help manage and protect the safety of mobile workers in healthcare, social care, engineering and maintenance, and many other work alone or remote site working sectors, contact us and we will be glad to schedule a demonstration.