Hatzalah offers app to thwart kidnapping by sending GPS coordinates

Call goes out to police and simultaneously alerts Hatzalah’s dispatch center, with swipe on the smartphone app.

Motorola Android smartphone 311 (photo credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
Motorola Android smartphone 311
(photo credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
A smartphone application that the non-profit emergency medical service organization United Hatzalah uses to communicate with its thousands of medics is being offered to the general population in case of trouble such as attempted kidnappings and other emergencies.
United Hatzalah, which uses ambucycles to get volunteers to an emergency within minutes, uses the Irving and Cherna Moskowitz LifeCompass technology, developed together with the Israeli company NowForce. The app enables the organization to locate its medics in real time and dispatch those closest to emergencies.
Following last week’s kidnapping of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, Hatzalah accelerated its planned launch of the civilian version of the unique technology. With a swipe on the smartphone app, a call goes out to the police and simultaneously alerts Hatzalah’s dispatch center, which operates from Jerusalem around the clock, every day, including Shabbat and holidays.
In addition, the system alerts family members, friends, or rapid responders pre-programmed into the system that an alert has been initiated. Hatzalah dispatchers continue to monitor the emergency until it is cleared.
During the past year alone, dozens of attempted kidnappings in Israel were thwarted by the police. The recent incident, however, “indicates that we should seek tools and technologies to provide additional layers of security. Our goal is to prevent further similar tragedies by giving the public access to the proven technology that it has been using for years, handling over 200,000 emergency calls annually,” said Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer. The civilian version of the app is already in use in many countries all over the world, including the US, Brazil, and Nigeria.
“Our main mission at United Hatzalah is to get to medical emergencies within two minutes all over Israel,” said Beer. “In this situation though, when our children’s lives are in danger and we have the right technology to help, we feel obliged to step up and share our knowledge and help provide protection to the sons and daughters of Israel.”
The app is designed to function as an emergency safety and security alert system and is not meant to replace direct verbal communication with police, fire, or medical emergency dispatchers. It is available on sos.nowforce.com in English and Hebrew.
Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post presented to the Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesman’s Office on Thursday a simple, inexpensive, and preventive way to make hitchhiking much safer around the country, particularly in Judea and Samaria.
The idea involves issuing a laminated card with a hologram (to reduce the risk of counterfeiting), that would bear the name and photograph of drivers willing to take on passengers. The driver would apply to an authority for the wallet-sized card, which would have to be displayed at a car’s passenger window. In addition, authorities could inform hitchhiking residents of a temporary oral password to use with the card. Unless the driver presents the card to would-be hitchhikers and states the correct password, they would be warned not to enter the vehicle.
The IDF Spokesman praised the idea and said it would be passed on immediately to authorities responsible for civilian security.