Maria, which destroyed Puerto Rico, has left 1.5 million American citizens without access to drinking water, while in Houston, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is still being felt. And Florida residents are breathing a sigh of relief that the damage from Hurricane Irma wasn’t worse.
Tech companies, quick to respond to Harvey and Irma, have been much slower to announce relief efforts or matching donations for Maria, and that mirrors a broader lack of mobilization in response to what’s looking like a far more catastrophic event.
However, RapidSOS has launched an offering in response to all three storms. The company is offering its service for free for the next three years for users who sign up using this link.
“We are acutely aware that today and over the next few days 911 telecommunicators and first responders will be out braving the conditions to respond to millions of emergencies in impacted areas. Meanwhile, over the next weeks, months, and years, millions of people will be rebuilding their lives,” the company said in a statement. “This is a small effort to do what we can to help. We also will be donating revenue from existing subscribers during this period (months of August and September) to the Red Cross and several public safety support agencies.”
What does RapidSOS’ technology actually do?
The company offers an updated way to reach outdated emergency response systems. The 9-1-1 infrastructure dates back to the 1970s and limits most emergency calls to voice lines that have 512 bytes of data. That means responders can find it difficult to deploy emergency responders without verbal location information in most cases.
RapidSOS says it has partnerships with public safety software vendors, including Airbus, GeoComm, GeoConex, Hexagon, INdigital, Motorola Solutions, Pulsiam, Rave, RapidDeploy, Solacom, TriTech and Zetron, to name a few.
These companies provide call-taking, computer-aided dispatch, and first responder software to most 9-1-1 call centers for free to provide location-based data.
Where NG911 data is not available, the company’s software service can transmit information like a name, contact number, type of emergency and location of the caller over the existing 512 byte network.
RapidSOS has been endorsed by 36 nonprofits and has commercial partnerships with mobile devices, wearables, connected cars and insurance carriers, the company said.