Norwalk, CT – Trek Medics International, a nonprofit technology startup, has launched a new companion mobile app to their emergency dispatching platform, Beacon. The Beacon mobile app, funded with support from Twilio.org and the Tides Foundation, will allow community first responders to receive and respond to emergency alerts using both smartphones and feature phones, with or without an internet connection, making 9-1-1-style emergency response coordination possible for anyone with a mobile phone signal.
“For the past 50 years, radio communications have formed the backbone of community emergency response systems,” said Jason Friesen, paramedic and founder of Trek Medics. “But these days it’s a lot easier and cheaper to find 100 firefighters and paramedics with their own mobile phones than to provide 100 with their own radios — that’s the technology gap the Beacon mobile app is working to fill on a global level.”
The Beacon mobile app will provide major upgrades in user experience and mapping to the SMS-only version currently being used to support emergency services in Latin America and Africa, including: a map-based user interface for Android and iPhone mobile phones; dual SMS and push notification messaging; GPS location services; availability in 5 languages; and an easy-to-use two-step registration process.
The Beacon mobile app, developed in collaboration with Vision Point Systems, (Blacksburg, VA) was made possible through a Social Impact Fund Grant from Twilio.org and the Tides Foundation. Twilio, a global pioneer in internet and mobile messaging provides the technology that powers Beacon’s text message-based emergency communications in 15 countries and counting.
“Trek Medics empowers communities of all sizes and economic levels to improve their own emergency response systems and it has been really exciting for Twilio.org to play a role in this pioneering work.” said Erika Balbuena, head of strategic partnerships at Twilio.org. “With Trek Medics’ new Beacon mobile app, 9-1-1 systems can be built in areas where they have never existed before. We look forward to seeing what communities can achieve with this life-saving technology.”
Since 2014 the Beacon emergency dispatch platform is being used to ensure reliable emergency dispatching for fire departments and ambulance services in Latin America and Africa by alerting and coordinating volunteer and professional first responders to thousands of life-threatening emergency incidents, including for motor vehicle collisions, women in childbirth and infectious diseases, among many others. Beacon was also used this past fall in the Dominican Republic to assist in the coordination of local responders during hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Since beta-testing for the Beacon mobile app began this past January, over 1,000 responders have downloaded the app, with new providers already integrating the platform into their services in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Costa Rica. “The fact that these new services got started on our platform before we’d even finished testing is a testament to the fact that there’s a genuine global need for better emergency communications at the local level,” continued Friesen. “Until now that hasn’t existed in a scalable way, but thanks to the tremendous support of Twilio, it’s now possible for anyone with emergency training and a phone in their hand to receive and respond to emergency alerts anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal, with or without internet.”
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