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Agent Safety: Prevention vs. Reaction

May 12 2015

wav prevention reactionRecently, a friend asked me to review some personal safety apps. Just to be clear, a personal safety app is an app that loads onto your smartphone and allows you to alert a handful of pre-defined people that you are in trouble. Additionally, some of these apps will also alert a call center that will then call the police. Finally, a variation on these concepts are wearable devices that do the same thing but are instead worn on your person.

The first thing we have to consider in reviewing any of these apps or devices is what "safety" is. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines safety as "the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss." So the question is not whether any of the several personal safety apps or wearables on the market do what they say they will do. I'm sure most of them do.

The real question we have to ask is will they keep you safe? In your position as a real estate agent, can personal safety apps and devices prevent you from undergoing hurt, injury, or loss? The answer is clearly no.

Personal safety apps and devices are not designed to keep you safe; they are designed to alert friends and family and/or the police that you are about to be, are currently, or just have been a victim of a crime. There are several problems with these products. First of all, if an attack is imminent, what are the odds that one of the people alerted are going to be close enough to prevent or stop the attack? Additionally, if a prospect is a threat, the existence of a "panic button" can actually escalate a situation and speed up an attack; and if the prospect is not a threat, the existence of a panic button can create an uncomfortable tension and interfere with the relationship building needed during the sales process.

Please don't misunderstand me--I think all these personal safety apps and devices are great for the general public in everyday situations. However, real estate agents spend their days in a dramatically different manner than the general public, and they work in a profession that is 40 percent more dangerous than average professions (according to BLS). Real estate agents meet with people they do not know in empty residences, and their livelihood depends on staying with those individuals even when they feel uncomfortable.

The safety needs of real estate agents are dramatically different from the general public. In order for any piece of technology to keep you safe, it must:

  • Be part of a holistic approach to safety that involves people, processes, and technology
  • Be a system and needs to be clandestine to the prospect
  • Have elements that help deter predators
  • Provide agents with the knowledge and information needed to asses the risk of each particular prospect and situation
  • Provide agents with a way to have a nearby agent drop in on a showing or open house when they first become uncomfortable instead of waiting until they feel threatened...because by then it's too late.

So anytime you evaluate any safety product being marketed to the real estate industry, ask yourself one question: Will this product help me avoid and prevent an attack or will it merely allow me to react to an attack or imminent threat of an attack?

If a product can't help you avoid and prevent an attack, then it doesn't keep you safe. It only lets people know where to start searching for you.