Punch Technologies has had an exciting start to the year. Going into Covid, we saw a slowdown in the use of our PunchAlert software for managing emergencies since so many of our customers were either closed entirely or working remotely. We responded by developing a new module that would assist customers with safe entry Covid screening called Sentry. This was possibly our fastest and most efficient development project beginning to end and I can’t commend enough my development team for that effort. Customers love the product… but we know (and prayed) that Covid won’t be around forever. So we decided to double down on two critical components of our emergency platform: 911+ and Rescue.
911+ is our powerful dynamic location routing e911 service that we deliver to thousands of active users every day. It lives inside PunchAlert as a core differentiation, but it is also used by 3rd parties. Now, with a new partner (announcement on this coming soon), we are going to be brining indoor location to our 911+ stack, further differentiating the service and opening up all sorts of interesting applications for real-time awareness of location to the police in an emergency. More on this soon.
Rescue has been the mother of all projects for a software startup (since it’s actually part software, part hardware). I always found the dream of developing a fully integrated hardware, software, and 911 API company in the emergency space to be extremely exciting. This is what I would envision as an Apple or Tesla-style vision for what an emergency communication service could become. In late 2017, a customer had a terrible tragedy that made us realize the importance of connected hardware for automating emergencies, and we decided to dive in. In 2021, we finally launched Rescue after years and years of effort and far more of an investment than we could have imagined. Then, production issues became real as we underestimated the challenge of scaling our operation. It’s now March of 2022 and we see the light at the end of this tunnel. We’ve deployed to over a dozen customers and have inventory ready to fulfill 70+ customer orders in the coming weeks. Demand for this unique wearable, connected panic button is very high both in the aquatics space (where we offer the unique capability of water and fall detection for lifeguards), and our general education or workplace customer environments. This would not have been possible without the unbelievable patience of our early-adopter Rescue customers that trusted in us, made down-payments, waited, tested, sometimes returned, and then re-shipped, re-tested, re-implemented, and so on. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I truly believe that this will help us save lives together going forward.
Rescue combined with PunchAlert and 911+ presents an exciting road ahead for our company, and I’ll have far more updates to share about our plans to grow and evolve very soon.
CEO, Punch Technologies
Emergency preparedness accommodations for the disabled aren’t as costly as they’re made out to be.
Since the birth of the Americans with Disabilities Act, much has evolved. Supermarket aisles have expanded, schools have ramps, and you can now get on a bus in a wheelchair – something that wasn’t so easy 27 years ago. While this is all progress, our current corporate culture still lags behind in making our world one that’s accessible for everyone.
The biggest problem, surprisingly, may be that partisan against those with impairment still exists for employers. Many organizations feeling to hire someone with a disability means large sums spent on accommodations. The unemployment rate for impaired individuals was a whopping 10.7 percent in 2015, which doesn’t include those that have given up looking for jobs or those who never even entered the job market. That’s twice the amount of unemployment for those without impairment at 5.1 percent.
While hiring a person with a disability comes with many contingencies and aspects to consider, a federal study showed the average cost to be about $200, with one in five costing nothing at all. Many of these office alterations can also act safety measures, making the emergency preparedness for your office inclusive to those with impairments.
Making sure your organization has the right emergency preparedness in place to cater to disabled employees includes risk evaluation and extensive knowledge of legal and regulatory players, but studies have found the costs are not astronomical.
For example, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), completed a study showing that workplace accommodations are low cost and also positively affected the workplace in more ways than one. In one instance a product technician with a chemical sensitivity was having breathing issues at the office because of chemicals used in production. To accommodate the employer equipped this technician with a face mask, ear plugs, lab coat, and gloves, which were already available from another department. This alteration cost the organization $0, but assisted this employee with their medical issue and increased emergency preparedness when it came to chemical spills.
While this is just one example, modern technology now makes it easier for workplaces to design a corporate culture that feels built for the disabled employee – instead of one only built for only the majority. Offices with disabled employees should harness these advancements to increase emergency preparedness and make everyone feel safe.
For example, offices are discovering more and more that a Mobile Emergency Notification System, is the most cost effective and efficient way of safety management. What’s also helpful, is their multifaceted approach to safety makes it versatile enough to accommodate impaired employees as well. Hearing impaired employees can get visual mobile alerts right on their phones instead of being bypassed by alarms. Also, the two way communication on mobile safety systems allows for disabled employees to communicate with authorities and office administrators in real time during an emergency.
While accommodations like installing ramps can be a few hundred dollars or more, many others are virtually cost free. Proper planning, assigning a buddy system, training sessions, and running regular emergency drills to test procedures, can go a long way in increasing the emergency preparedness for the impaired, and those that aren’t, in your office. Most of what can and needs to be changed are methods and mindsets.
The low cost hiring and creating a safe place for disabled employees exposes the overlooked issue that the problem with disabled individuals isn’t medical, it’s societal. Individuals with disabilities should feel just as safe as those in your organization without and a hiring decision should never be effected by a false assumption that an impaired person can’t keep up.
While there has been much progress since the enactment of ADA, there’s still much to be done. If we all work together we can create a world with an even playing field that’s both accessible and safe for everyone.
Students are taught to use their time wisely, and campuses can do the same by improving their system of mass notification.
Though, we try to prevent crisis situations from occurring on campuses and take precautions for prevention, sometimes dangerous situations happen. In these cases, we must be prepared. Mass notification must be sent in a timely manner to an entire campus so those not yet affected can prepare and protect themselves. The irreplaceable benefits of a mass notification system are why nearly 75 percent of campuses have recently bought or will soon buy a mass notification solution. Communicating to a large amount of people in the least amount of time can, however, pose the largest of challenges.
Think back to the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007. Resulting in 32 deaths and 23 non-fatal injuries, could these have been prevented? Campus officials have been criticized for acting too slowly in taking actions against the horrific on-goings. In this case, too slowly was a matter of five short minutes. Not only did it take too long for public officials to take action, but the university waited two hours to inform students by email about the first shooting, and half an hour later by email again for students to “Please stay put.” Two hours passed before there was an official release, at this point not only are their students in panic, but students were unaware and confused about what happened. Virginia Tech is not the only campus-based instance where time has been of the essence, the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 experienced much longer than a five-minute delay, 40 long minutes passed before the appropriate officials were able to take action. Imagine how these numbers could be different if students, faculty and public officials were all notified with one push of a button.
Shootings on school campuses are not the only events that students, visitors and staff should be notified about. A chemical spill in a science laboratory affects the whole campus, not just the room it happened in. In the Fall of 2016, Saint Xavier University experienced a spill of a half gallon of hydrochloric acid. Getting a chemical spill cleaned quickly is necessary to avoid health hazards. An individual’s health can largely be affected in this instance, not only the students in the laboratory but everyone in that building can be exposed to said chemicals. Students need to know as soon as an incident occurs to evacuate, and responders should be alerted in the same time so the building can be taken care of in the necessary manner.
The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 requires all postsecondary institutions to make “timely warnings to the campus community regarding crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.” Public safety officials have a moral and ethical obligation to provide the safest environment possible for students and employees. Complying with government regulations and utilizing the features of an app like Punch Alert allows campus security to be as seamless and efficient as ever.
As urban migration increases, more and more people are working in office spaces in giant corporate buildings. When examining an emergency alert system as a company wide safety platform, consider these 5 points for the benefits of having a mobile based emergency alert system.
Having a cell phone, especially a smartphone, has become almost a necessity for people these days. The cell phone bill has become as much a part of our lives as the water or heating payment. 95% of people own a cellphone and 77% of those are smartphones. Because so many people own a mobile device, half of the issue in getting everyone the access to an emergency system platform is solved. For a security company to come in and install a full system in a particular corporation, costs can range from $1500-$2000 just for installation. The cost for mobile based emergency systems can be significantly less.
Many alert systems that corporations use are single action based systems. A fire alarm only alerts if there is a fire. A carbon monoxide detector only alerts high CO levels. But what if anything else happens? Mobile applications can be tailored to have an array of functions for the user. Most applications on the app store are updated on a monthly and, for a few, a weekly basis. With apps being so versatile, an emergency alert system with a host of safety functions are easily accessible to the user in times of an emergency.
3. Eyes Everywhere
One of the most critical aspects of an emergency is communication. In New York, city officials used a mobile device based emergency alert system to notify patrons of the city of a suspected bomber. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the system “a very valuable tool.” While New York is a little bigger than an office space, buildings are still very large. Office buildings built after the year 2000 have an average size of 19,000 square feet. Emergency alert systems that are in your pocket can alert you of something happening even if you are in a completely different area of the office building or space.
In the event where silence is of the utmost importance, having a mobile device app that can silently send out a request for help is crucial. Where the average response time of police is 11 minutes, it is important that people in a harmful situation do not create sounds that can attract danger. Mobile device based emergency apps can help avoid exactly that. If, in the unfortunate and terrifying event where a person holding a firearm has made their way into a particular work space – an alarm going off to alert everyone within the office may only escalate the situation. An app that can silently report a problem across a platform to many users at the same time can achieve the exact same goal as a silent alarm.
5. Ease of Use
Safety app producing companies such as Punch Alert have worked with safety experts and leading UX designers in order to make their product as easily navigable as possible. What is the point of using an app that is hard to use when you are in an emergency? One would already be stressed and traumatized in the situation and app designers know that. Besides safety, designers number one goal is to have their users be comfortable using their application. At work, people already have a lot on their plate. In the event of an emergency, it should be as easy as can be to ensure one’s safety.
Saving money is crucial for businesses to prosper and adding unnecessary expenses of course seems foolish. Considering emergency alert systems, moving to a mobile device based platform can decrease costs while leaving workers with a mindset of increased safety.
We were honored to be invited to speak about our app with TechBlogWriter.co.uk
We spoke about how we use GPS and RFID beacon technology to make people safer especially in places where groups of people gather like colleges, sports events, hospitals and in cities and places of work.
Security information can be crowdsourced from groups of people and warnings and emergency plans can be disseminated back out to them almost instantaneously.
We are excited about everything our safety app can do and know this is one idea whose time has come.
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