One-Touch Emergency Response A new app enables people with hearing and speech difficulties to summon first responders with a tap to their smartphones—no talking required. App-titude
App-titude  |   June 01, 2016
One-Touch Emergency Response
Author Notes
  • Anna Potapov, MD, is on the business development team at RapidSOS.
    Anna Potapov, MD, is on the business development team at RapidSOS.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Hearing & Speech Perception / App-titude
App-titude   |   June 01, 2016
One-Touch Emergency Response
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/
Believe it or not: Emergency communication still relies on an infrastructure from the 1960s. Emergency 911 calls from cell phones depend solely on a voice connection with no data transfer, and speaking is typically the only option for direct communication (you can send text messages to 911 in only 6 percent of the U.S.)
Obviously, this situation makes it challenging for people with hearing or speech difficulties to convey necessary information to 911 during an emergency. And that’s an issue, given that cell phones are increasingly the means of making 911 calls:
One solution comes from smartphone apps that quickly connect users to emergency response services. These include apps such as MobileHelp, Send Help and Red Panic Button, which send alerts to pre-programmed emergency contacts. The latest to enter the fray, Haven from RapidSOS, goes a step beyond, directly connecting users with first responders. RapidSOS is a company founded by a team of MIT and Harvard University entrepreneurs and engineers.
How it works
Haven sends data from a person’s smartphone to dispatch centers across in the nation. It transmits:
  • Voice and text messages. Haven speaks the text message to the dispatcher if the center does not have the capability to receive text.

  • GPS location.

  • Type of emergency.

  • Relevant medical and demographic data.

  • Live camera feed (only available in certain jurisdictions).

The app makes intelligent connectivity decisions to maintain data transfer even in difficult environments. If a user is unable to speak, one tap on Haven transmits all the information dispatchers need to send help. The person’s pre-set emergency contacts are also notified via text message and/or email.
How it compares
Although other apps offer emergency texting to families and friends and/or connection to a third-party call center, which then conferences in 911 over voice, this is the first emergency-related app to universally transmit data into the existing 911 infrastructure.
To build it, the RapidSOS team spent years researching operations in 911 dispatch centers. Through the app, emergency personnel receive important data on who users are and where they’re located, including demographic information, medical conditions and disabilities.
How to get it
Haven is available for download from the App Store and Google Play Store with a free introductory period. After that, the pricing is:
  • Individual Plan: $2.99/month or $29.99/year.

  • Family Plan: $4.99/month or $49.99/year.

Those unable to afford these plans may be eligible to get it for free through the RapidSOS Safer Together Movement.
RapidSOS plans to launch additional personal security and connected health capabilities, including integration into wearable devices and home security systems. Beyond Haven, the company seeks to use transformative models to predict certain emergencies before they occur by analyzing real-time factors, such as traffic patterns, weather and event data.
To learn more about RapidSOS or the Haven app, visit
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June 2016
Volume 21, Issue 6