The conversation went something like this: "I'm gonna kill ya. God Bless yah, I'm gonna kill ya."
The whole thing might have been humorous had the man uttering these words not been blocking our path in the streets of Oakland, Calif., wielding a large stick. But I was amazingly calm. I have no special skills, I'm no undercover karate master or self-defense guru, and at 5'2" and under 95 pounds, I can't even physically intimidate a second grader. But what I lacked in physicality I made up for in ingenuity. I had downloaded and subscribed to StreetSafe ($19.99 per month) and my finger was on the app's trigger. I knew that if it came to it, police assistance was just a finger's flick away, which enabled me to speak calmly with "stick man," apologize for whatever indiscretion we had been accused of (I don't think we ever got clarification as to what exactly we had done) and safely pass. Crisis averted.
So what exactly is StreetSafe? StreetSafe is a personal security service that provides peace of mind when you find yourself in potentially unsafe situations. Think of it as a personal alarm system for your body. Although the app itself is free, in order to use it, you have to subscribe to the StreetSafe service, which costs $19.99 a month or $149.99 for a year. Quarterly packages are also available for $44.99. Once you purchase your package, you are urged to fill out a personal profile including a photo and any physical descriptors such as tattoos or scars. Had I needed to hit my silent alarm, the Oakland police department would have been given my GPS location and known that Carolyn, a 5'2" petite blond, needed assistance. Upon arrival, they could have called out my name or easily have found me based on my appearance.
Why is this important? Let's say the situation had escalated. I wasn't in a position where pulling out my cell phone and dialing 9-1-1 was reasonable or even safe. The man could have stolen my phone, knocked it out of my hand with the stick, or become so agitated that he attacked me with the stick. Not to mention, I was on a work trip, and while I knew I was in Oakland, the street name I was on was a complete mystery. How could I have possibly gotten the help I needed in a timely manner?
You don't have to wait until it's too late. The second service StreetSafe provides is the "Walk With Me" feature. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can call StreetSafe and a live, trained operator will escort you to your destination. You better believe I made full use of this feature every time I left my hotel on my own (had to feed that Starbucks addiction) for the duration of my Oakland trip. I'll admit, the first time I called I felt a bit apprehensive, maybe even a little silly. I slid the green button and waited for a StreetSafe advisor to return my call. What would I say? "Can you talk to me while I walk to Starbucks?" That doesn't sound lame at all. But as soon as the advisor returned my call, I was immediately put at ease. They explained that I didn't need to feel foolish at all, this was their job, they enjoyed it, and I should make use of the service I was paying for whenever I needed it. They explained that they would stay on the phone with me until I reached my destination and if I sounded like I needed help, they would contact emergency services with my GPS location and description. To a passerby on the street, I simply looked like I was having a conversation with a friend. What I found astounding was the accuracy at which the advisor was able to pinpoint my location. She was able to tell me what street I was on, which direction I was heading, and how far I had to walk to get to Starbucks. I was more than impressed, and I will never feel uncomfortable using StreetSafe to escort me again.
A few things to keep in mind: You need to have a clear cell signal and GPS enabled in order for StreetSafe to work. My husband and I have competing cell phone carriers (crazy, right?), and there are times when he has no signal in parking structures or underground lots. If you want to use StreetSafe to walk to your car late at night in an underground garage, make sure you have cell service before signing up. The escort service is a call back service. You want to make sure you make your request before you leave your hotel, place of employment, or car, and give them time to call back. This way you can pop in your ear buds and pocket your phone before going out. I have to say, my personal experience with StreetSafe has been nothing but positive, making it an excellent personal safety choice for students, the elderly, professionals who travel to unfamiliar destinations for work, or anyone looking for extra peace of mind. To find out more, head over to StreetSafe.com