With the recent, horrible, kidnapping and death of REALTOR® Beverly Carter in Arkansas after showing a vacant home to an unknown person, personal safety is first and foremost on people’s minds today.
As it should be. Every day.
Unfortunately, it can take events like these to take a hard look at how we and our brokerage (and/or our company) handles issues like personal safety for real estate agents. With most agents now carrying mobile devices of some nature, and new technologies being released all the time, there are a number of materials, devices, companies and apps out there for you to choose from when deciding how to protect oneself.
Here are a few that we’ve uncovered:
When discussing safety devices and avenues to pursue, you can look at it as an individual investment, or on a broader scale.
Guardly is a company that is all about safety. It has all kinds of safety solutions for businesses, organizations and individuals. One of the most popular offerings for individuals is the Guardly Safety App. Available for every smart device (yes, even Blackberries and Windows phones), the Guardly App offers automatic connection with emergency services, real-time notification to designated people, real-time location tracking and an emergency beacon. Although download is free, a monthly subscription for most of Guardly’s features is $1.99, with a 1-year subscription of $19.99.
Secure Show recently made its debut at Inman Connect San Francisco. SecureShow can be used by offices or individuals. Basically, you start by purchasing a verification, either singularly or in packs. Whomever you wanted to verify is then sent a verification link, their cell phone number is confirmed, and the prospect is walked through a process where they scan and upload their driver’s license, passport or State ID. Secure Show verifies that the photo matches the identification, while a third-party company checks the ID against other databases. Note: This is not a criminal background check. N
ormal turnaround time is estimated to be 8 hours, so you’ll have to plan ahead. Edited: Per Secure Show’s comment below, their turnaround time for verification is now “30 minutes or less.” Once the prospect’s identity is verified and your identity is verified, you both receive notifications with photos of each other and a special identifying code (to match).
REALTOR® Safety Materials from the NAR
Technically, today is the last day of REALTOR® Safety Month, but really every month should be REALTOR® Safety month. The National Association of REALTORS® has put together a collection of materials, including suggested office safety forms and tips from other organizations for REALTOR® safety. You can find those NAR materials here: http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety/materials.
The hot new thing in technology is wearable technology. You may have already seen people walking around with smart watches from several different companies. (Most, if not all, smart watches have 911-calling capability plus geo-location.) Now that’s being extended to other devices crafted specifically for your safety.
Cuff isn’t just a cuff – it’s a small device that fits into several cuff versions, and also a necklace. Billed as “smart jewelry,” Cuff has a benign features, like phone notification and activity tracking. However, Cuff also has a built-in safety feature that, when pressed, sends out a message to designated friends and family with your location, as well as audio that the device picks up. Cuff is available for pre-order right now, with expected delivery March 2015.
FirstSign actually has a collection of products meant for personal safety. They have a mobile app, to be released in October 2014, which helps alert friends and family if you don’t “check in” with the app within a certain time. The app is also meant to work with a number of FirstSign products, including a Pod that, with extra monitoring charges of around $5 a month, has the ability to detect trauma – if it’s worn in a headband, it can alert to possible head trauma; if worn around the wrist, trauma suffered from a fall. From their site, it appears that they’re looking to partner with other companies to extend the uses of their FirstSign pod.
Stiletto is the newest of the three discussed here. In fact, the crowdsourced fundraising just began September 21st! Stiletto is meant to look just like any piece of jewelry. However, the device has a number of features, beyond its looks, that make it attractive: built-in microphone, the ability to “speak” to 911 when you can’t, enhanced indoor location technology, route planning, multiple alert systems, and more. If funded, estimated delivery is March 2015.
Apps for Your Safety
There are a number of apps out there that can assist in keeping you safe, or at least alerting people if you’re ever in danger. You can always take a look online or in your respective app stores to find the most popular/highly rated to see if any suit you. Some apps we took a look at include:
- SOS – StaySafe app - Only available for Android, if you shake the device or click the power button three times, your designated contacts will be alerted, along with real-time GPS location tracking of your phone
- ASAPP SOS app – Although originally created for students, this can be used by adults as well. Available for both iPhone and Android, features include SOS alerts to text, email and social media, as well as 911 prompts and location tracking.
- bSafe app – Both Apple and Android-friendly, the bSafe app has an alert button to notify select friends and family, with video recording feature included. You can also have people “Follow You” via GPS (so if you divert course, they’ll know), as well as a Fake Call option, to get you out of unwanted or suspect meetings.
- Emergensee app – With one tap, you can send audio, visual and GPS information to whomever you choose. You can also use the app to live-chat with emergency responders.
- Watch Over Me app – Watch Over Me does three things: Sends out emergency alerts if you fail to check in, triggers an emergency alert just by shaking your phone and alerts you if you are entering certain high-crime areas (but only in select cities). Download is free, but unlimited contacts, emergency “events,” etc. will cost.
- Agents Armor – Created with real estate agents in mind, Agents Armor is available to individual agents as well as brokerages. You have to pay (subscription-based pricing) to download the app, but once downloaded, you have access to one-button emergency service dialing, several kinds of alerts to your select contacts, GPS location detection, designated check-in times and more.
Safety for Your Possessions
If you’ve been holding open houses, you may have heard (or seen first-hand!) or objects can “walk off” if left unsupervised. Sometimes they’re the homeowners’ prescription medications; other times, they may be your own purse or briefcase. To alert yourself as to the wearabouts of your personal items, there are a few gadgets out there that may help.
Tile is a device that you can attach to pretty much anything – keys, purses, computer cases, etc. Powered by Bluetooth, Tile has a 100-foot range. Working within the app, however, it also records the last place it was, and also alerts you when you’re getting close. So, if you’re not sure whether you’ve misplaced your keys or someone has actually walked off with them, you can trigger the app and find out. Currently, Tile is only available for iOS devices, although they’re always releasing updates and new features.
Charm Alarm is actually two devices in one – a wearable charm, and a smartcard. You place the smartcard in your wallet or purse, and wear the charm. If you get too far away from the card, both the charm and the smartcard will give an audible warning, and the charm will also alert you with lights and vibration. You don’t even need a smart device to use this!
The TrackR is a not-yet-released disc, similar to Tile, that attaches to keyrings, purses, or anything else you’ll want to track. Using the TrackR app on either your iPhone or Android, you will be able to make the TrackR device ring so you can have sound alerts, as well a distance indicator. One of the most interesting aspects of the TrackR is the Crowd GPS function. Basically, if your keys or purse walk off, and anyone else who uses TrackR is within range, you’ll get an alert and a GPS update on where your item is.
We may never be fully prepared when the unexpected strikes, but perhaps one or several of the above devices will help in your research for continued personal safety as a real estate agent.
Do you have any other suggestions?
Steve Tarabochia says
Please publish the NAR Safety video and the PDF on the 18 things you can do to ensure safety.Encourage all companies, owners, agents, trainers, schools to make it a priority in all conversations.
Tara L. Christianson says
Thank you so much for directing attention to those resources.
As you’ve mentioned and is mentioned in the article, there are number of resources the NAR provides in training videos (http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety/videos), safety presentations (http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety/presentations), a Field Guide to REALTOR® safety (http://www.realtor.org/field-guides/field-guide-to-realtor-safety) and more.
Keep making this very important topic top of mind with whomever you meet.
Robert Drummer says
I like Glympse for real-time tracking. You can send a Glympse to family/friends so they can see your current location. https://www.glympse.com/
Nothing works as well as following the basic precautions like meeting all clients at the office, getting a copy of their ID and discussing options prior to visiting properties.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to say that you’re expecting another agent/client to meet you shortly.
Finally, here’s Rob Hahn’s take (which I support) on agents and firearms: http://www.notorious-rob.com/2011/08/30/nar-meet-nra-guns-realtors/
Lynn Robertson says
Tara, thank you so much for this article. This tragedy has profoundly touched so many of us in the real estate industry, and instead of feeling powerless it’s good to look for ways to change how we do business. Technology has evolved for safer showings, just as it has for all other areas of real estate, yet it seems technology safety tools have been in the shadows of other glitzy apps for far too long. I appreciate you helping to change this.
As the Founder of Secure Show, I am grateful for your mention and would like to add that the turn around time for verification is now approximately 30 minutes, often less. Like all technology we get better with time. By using Secure Show, along with other safety measures, we can take accountability for our safety, rather than fear for it!
Tara L. Christianson says
Thanks, Lynn, I’ll edit the article to reflect your awesome turnaround time!
Tere Weatherly says
May I suggest a personal stun gun apparatus or better yet, training to receive a conceal carry permit (NC) and carry a gun. Apps can’t save you from an attack, they can locate your body.
Jlyne Hanback says
Technically, we don’t know that he was “unknown”. He may have been “known” to her. We are not privy to those details (and may never be). He could have been someone that she showed property to before with no prior issues. Perhaps another agent that she worked with had shown him property previously with no issue – he DID buy another home in the recent past and just because he paid someone cash for it doesn’t mean that he didn’t use the services of another Realtor at some point. Perhaps she did see his ID.
The point I am making here is that while this is a very sad and tragic event, I believe it is very unfair to assume that she was showing the home to an “unknown” person when we have no way of knowing exactly what safety protocol she may or may not have followed. The point needs to be focused on how we can keep ourselves safe, and not cast Beverly Carter in a light that allows others to perceive that she was irresponsible when that information isn’t known, it is assumed.
Bad things could happen to any of us, even if we take every precaution possible. It is our responsibility as Realtors to implement every safety procedure that we can and assume responsibility for our own safety.
Thank you for the technology information; your post has been very helpful.
My thoughts are with Beverly Carter’s family.
Khoo Chen Shiang says
This is James, SECQME founder, Watch Over Me App developer.
Thanks for features our App here, appreciated.
I just like to add couple of points how Watch Over Me can benefits Real Estate Agent:
- One of feature of our App – user could register “Watch Over Me” event and update the event with latest info (Text + Picture), Real Estate Agent could snap the picture of client whenever they bring them to visit a property. (Please do ask for permission first, and say is safety precaution)
All this info is keep securely in our server, and if emergency occurs, user love one will able to access those info.
- Access Watch Over Me from Google Wear Watch (such as Moto360) – We just launch Watch Over Me for Google Wear, user could trigger emergency request directly from the Watch without taking out their phone, and we plan to support iWatch when it launch.
Tara L. Christianson says
Thanks for the additional, info, James – appreciate it!
Suzie Larson says
How about exercising your 2nd amendment right??? I took a firearm class and a self defense class and now I conceal carry EVERYDAY….Just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you can’t learn to protect yourself. God bless her family. Very sad and unfortunate
Heather Ostrom says
Thank you so much for posting this list of ways to improve our safety. This is a list of love, because it’s so much to comb through, know what really works, and what options are out there. Thanks for taking the time to assemble this list Tara. It’s amazing and I’ll be sharing with our office.
Tara L. Christianson says
Thank you, Heather!
Thank you so much Tara for writing this! I shared it with our office and already downloaded BSafe and plan on testing it today. I am typically oblivious to my surroundings and this has brought it back front and center that I need to be more aware and better prepared.
Tara L. Christianson says
Awesome, thank you Rosemary!