Free smart phone app from ICE BlackBox enhances personal safety

Free smart phone app from ICE BlackBox enhances personal safety

I often see people walking along a street, in a parking lot, or other location, who are busily using their smart phones, often oblivious to their surroundings. In law enforcement and the military, it is emphasized that individuals need to have “situational awareness” and be fully cognizant about what is going on around them, especially potential threats, at all times. Pedestrians who have their noses deeply buried in their phones are typically unaware of what is going on around them, making them easy targets for those miscreants who may wish to do them harm. While there are no really effective apps available to enhance personal awareness while walking, there are several apps that can be utilized to enhance personal safety and security while walking anywhere.

One of the higher rated personal awareness and personal safety apps is ICE BlackBox, available for free for Android and Apple iOS devices. The acronym “ICE,” in this context, means “In Case of Emergency.” When activated, every few seconds, the ICE BlackBox sends audio, video, and your GPS location to a remote, secure ICE BlackBox server where the data becomes a permanent record. This is beneficial to users because if the phone is stolen or destroyed, the data remains secure on the remote server, where the data can be retrieved by authorized users. It the assailant coerces the victim into deleting the app and its data, there is no data loss, as it has already been securely recorded on the remote server. The ICE BlackBox app was created and distributed in cooperation with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Neighborhood Watch.

The ICE BlackBox app is extremely simple to use, and is appropriate for all members of the family possessing a smart phone or similar device. Once the app is loaded, an excellent idea whenever someone is in a situation or location where there may be some form of personal threat to safety, it takes a single press of the app’s record button in order to start streaming the audio and video from the device’s camera and the real-time GPS location to the ICE BlackBox server. There are no complex controls on the device to fumble with when under stress. There is also a single, large red bar in the app clearly labeled “911”; when pressed, it instantly dials the appropriate local 911 emergency call center while the app simultaneously sends the video capture and GPS location via e-mail or SMS text message to preselected emergency contacts. In a non-emergency situation, where it may be inappropriate to involve the official 911 system, the recorded data can be provided to others with links sent by e-mail or text messaging. In cases of bullying, suspicious persons or behaviors, domestic violence, child abuse, traffic accidents, workplace or social harassment, or other items of concern, this information may be provided to school officials, law enforcement, work supervisors, neighborhood watch leaders, or other persons of the users’ choice. Many users of ICE BlackBox routinely run the app when walking anywhere at night, jogging, or during other activities in which the user may be subject to a rapidly appearing threat. Since the data is being streamed every few seconds to a secure server, there is no chance that an assailant can delete or otherwise tamper with the data.

The data transmitted from the smart phone to the ICE BlackBox server would not be very useful unless there was an effective portal with which other authorized users could utilize the transmitted data; for this purpose, the ICE BlackBox Portal was created. Since the user of the app can choose who to share the data with, local safety can be enhanced. The user may choose to distribute the streamed data with the community, safety officials, personal contacts (including family), law enforcement, and individually selected others. The user may also choose to keep the videos and other data totally private, if desired. While there are currently two versions of the ICE BlackBox Portal, one for law enforcement and emergency personnel, and one for neighborhood watch groups, they both work in a similar fashion. The Portal is a Web based utility that displays recorded incidents, and is accessible on any device with Internet access and a Web browser. When a smart device user records and reports an incident, the precise GPS location and information on the user is displayed on a computer generated map. The user of the Portal can click on the icon showing the location, and view the transmitted and recorded audio and video stream.

The law enforcement portal was created in partnership with the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), and can be used by law enforcement and dispatchers to be quickly notified of an incident, determine the seriousness of the incident, and promptly dispatch appropriate units to the scene. In the event of a major disaster, either natural or man-made, the integrated system can be useful in locating victims and others that may need help. Since a video is attached to each icon, first responders may be dispatched based on the degree of immediate need, making the process more efficient, and potentially saving more lives and mitigating more damage.

The National Neighborhood Watch has its own portal to the system, called the Neighborhood Watch NOW Portal, which is free to affiliated local Neighborhood Watch groups. With this version of the portal, Neighborhood Watch leaders can better monitor their neighborhoods using input from participating citizens using the ICE BlackBox app to record and report suspicious individuals and events in their neighborhoods. Any group of citizens can create an affiliated Neighborhood Watch group, and have access to their own free portal covering their neighborhood, by applying at www.NNW.org website. As a deterrent to neighborhood crime, the National Neighborhood Watch has a selection of lawn signs, street signs, and window stickers available for purchase from iceblackbox.com/shop.

As a free app available for Android and Apple iOS devices, this is an app that should be installed on all compatible smart devices, and used whenever necessary to enhance personal safety and security. The free portal for neighborhood watch groups should also be widely used, as there are no disadvantages to its free use, but many potential benefits, and is freely available to any group that qualifies. The law enforcement portal would be an excellent adjunct to public safety, and can be used to supplement the data available to dispatch, as well as video and audio information that would be useful to detectives and other investigators. In the event of a disaster, the app and portal system could be a literal lifesaver.

This is a great app – get it.

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