I can recall when my parents made the decision to purchase a cell phone for me. Their main concerns were the ability to call 911, and to call home for rides. As mobile devices have evolved and we have transformed into a generation of smartphone and social media users, there is now another tool young women can use to assist in their safety. YWCA Canada, the country’s largest and oldest women’s multi-service organization has released the YWCA Safety Siren app for Blackberry Smartphones. Versions of the app are also available for the Apple platform (iPhone and iPod Touch).
The free to download app is created as “part of YWCA’s award-winning, signature anti-violence initiative, Power of Being a Girl,” and is available in both English and French. As a Blackberry user, I was easily able to download the app through a quick name search in the Blackberry app world.
The main screen of the app features a safety siren, which can be pressed in an unsafe situation. When activated, the app sends an emergency SOS email and a BBM (Blackberry Messenger) message to a pre-selected friend with approximate coordinates and places an emergency outgoing call to a pre-programmed number. The app also geo-connects you to over 300 resources and crisis centres across Canada.
The app also provides information about sexual health and wellness, dating and hooking up, tips and facts on safety and essential crisis information. One of my favourite features is the app’s use of inclusive language, rather than an assumption of heteronormativity.
The ease and effectiveness of the utility siren was also proven to me when I activated it by pressing my track pad when on the app’s main page (though I must admit it took me a moment to figure out how to turn it off). On the iPod and iPhone, shaking your device can activate the safety button.
The Safety Siren app is funded by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnership Program and is available for use alongside other apps, zines, and online resources (all free), as well as programs at YWCA Member Associations across the country.