Emergency SMS

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
Rich Tehrani
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Emergency SMS

One of my coworkers saw the second tower go down live on TV and suffice it to say was horrified and scared that his wife went down in the building. Thankfully she did not but there was a period of hours when he didn’t know if she was OK. Phone lines were often busy and people couldn’t communicate during this tragedy. The London bombings caused similar concerns among loved ones.

In response to the tragedies in London, one person decided to launch www.textOK.com – a solution that will allow users to let all their contacts know they are safe by sending just one text message. The system goes live on Monday, August the 8th.

One of the team behind the innovative project, Simon Melaniphy, a Director of Bournemouth based Refreshed Media, remembers when he first dreamt up the idea: “I was traveling on the tube only a few days after 7/7 and took a moment to think how many people must have been worried sick about work colleagues, friends and family, whilst those in London just couldn’t make calls on their mobiles.”

Backing this up, on 7/7 a spokeswoman for Virgin Mobile said “There are so many people making calls at the moment it is taking a while for people to get through”. Whilst BT were saying that so many people were turning to fixed line phones once they found that the mobile network was down, that it was running near capacity too. A single SMS uses so little bandwidth that contact is usually achievable first time, and reduces strain on the already overburdened mobile networks.

It takes only a few minutes according to the company to log onto the website and register up to 20 contacts. From that moment on, texting “OK” to 60999 will recognize the users’ mobile number, which in turn will send all of their contacts a pre-written email confirming they are OK. For a few more key-presses, typing a personal message after “OK”, the service can pass that on too.

This simplicity could prove useful for all age groups, Simon Melaniphy adds “We see textOK not only helping during terror attacks; for example, children away on school trips could easily get in touch with parents or friends back home with just one text. There are more exciting developments planned for textOK in the next 3 months to help people in a variety of ways.”

In the spirit of all great Internet ideas, textOK is being provided for FREE – there’s no charge to sign up or run an account, and all profit from sending a text, which costs 25p + a normal SMS, is being split between Friends of the Earth, NCH and Cancer Research, a charity close to the heart of Director Sarah Baker: “I’m already in training for a trek across the Great Wall of China with Cancer Research this year, and our aim is to boost that by raising over £100,000 for these positive causes through textOK, whilst helping people with a very useful service”.

It is unclear whether this service will be available to people in other countries at some point. This is a great idea and hopefully it will be used to ease the minds of loved ones n future emergencies.

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