Tourism Update reports the app provides tourists with three alerts:
- one calls for an ambulance,
- one calls for both an ambulance and a tactical unit, and
- one that will contact the user’s fellow travellers should they be lost or alone.
TourismUpdate.co.za quites Dean Cherry, Director of Nhongo Safaris, who references the recent follow-home incident when elderly Dutch tourists were robbed on their way from OR Tambo Airlport. “We moved really quickly to release the 911 Rapid Response app after the follow-home crime the Dutch tourists recently experienced. We didn’t want there to be another case where South Africa received bad publicity without a safety solution put forward.”
911 Rapid Response has entered into a contract with service provider ER24, whereby they will provide assistance to the user in the case of a medical emergency. The app is also able to offer a nationwide, armed response delivered by expertly trained personnel with an ex-military, ex-police, or ex-special ops background,” says Cherry.
Once the user selects the alert they require, their GPS location is issued to 911 Rapid Response’s dispatch office.
“Three attempts will then be made to contact the user. This is to ensure that there is, in fact, an emergency. If the user answers and says they do require assistance, or if they are unable to answer, the requested emergency services will be dispatched to the location,” Cherry explained.
According to the TBCSA, the app service also provides:
- a map indicating where the nearest tourism support services are, such as embassies, police stations, hospitals, fire and petrol stations.
- the ability to report an incident to the Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) website, to which the app is linked.
- a ‘follow me’ button. Subject to approval by the traveller, this feature allows the response members to follow the traveller’s route by the minute.
Additionally, a Near Field Communicator (NFC) can be fitted to the traveller’s vehicle. Should travellers suspect they are being followed, they can tap the NFC to alert the call centre. 911 Rapid Response will immediately dispatch a security vehicle to accompany the traveller.
According to a TBCSA spokesperson, it is envisaged that additional destination information will be added in future, guiding tourists to nearby spots that they can add to their itineraries. The app’s ability to track traveller movements will also be of use for SA Tourism’s marketing purposes.
Cherry says the app is aimed at foreigners but can also be used by South Africans travelling domestically. It is available on both the Android and Apple stores and costs R59 for South Africans, and $20 for foreigners, providing the user with 30 days access to its services
The app has already received international acclaim as the recipient of this year’s Google Innovation Award.