Many runners carry their phones with them, for various reasons: to track mileage, to listen to music/podcasts, to call/text, and of course, for SAFETY. YES, your cell phone can be a powerful safety tool, and below are five tips to leverage while running. My hope is that you won’t ever need to use your phone as a safety device, but best to be prepared for any situation. And, as the below statistics will show, your safety while running should be a concern.
Runner’s World recently published several articles on runner safety (Issue 6/2019). The survey results of 5,000 runners revealed some concerning and startling statistics:
- 36% of women runners have been followed while running.
- 84% of women have experienced harassment while running (70% of men have not).
- 94% of women who have been harassed say no one ever stepped in to help them.
- 16% of women felt threatened enough while running that they feared for their life.
Given those stats, below are five ways to leverage your phone in an emergency, and if you have a Garmin, a couple options as well. Of course, these phone safety tips apply to anyone that walks for exercise, walks their dog, and not just to those running. But, there are other things to consider to keep yourself safe while exercising. It does not make sense to educate yourself on how to leverage your phone (or Garmin) in an emergency, but make other choices that increase your vulnerability. Read this article on 10 Tips for Safer Running to further prepare yourself, and set yourself up for a safe outing.
Five Phone Safety Tips While Running
- Use your phone as a tracking device. There are several good app functions that track your location, such as Road ID, and AllTrails Lifeline. The apps provide info on your current location, and even better, notify your emergency contact if you have stopped for a set length of time, or gone off course. If you opt not to use these apps, at least text/call a family member to let them know your route, or send them a pin with your starting location.
- SOS signal. Most phones have an SOS feature to alert authorities. The key is to know how to activate it before you need it. For example, all iPhones (iOS 11) can activate the SOS feature by holding down the button on the right, plus one of the volume buttons (on left) for several seconds. Not only will it call the authorities, it will also send your location to all the emergency contacts you have listed (which, is another to-do for you: delegate key contacts to your emergency contact list!).
For Android users, there is an emergency call option on the home lock screen, but it appears that once you activate that, you still must dial 911. All Android phones (4.0 and above) have an ELS (Emergency Location Service), so calls to 911 will now automatically share a device’s location with emergency services.
- Call a friend, or family member. If you feel you’re in an unsafe area, or are approaching a sketchy situation, make a phone call. Let the person know where you are, and continue with your conversation. Criminals prefer a situation where they think their victim is alone, and without assistance. Anything that disrupts their environment when selecting a target is beneficial.
- Dial 911. If you sense something suspicious, or feel unsafe, do not hesitate to call 911. Many people don’t, or hesitate because they think their situation isn’t serious enough. Much better to err on the side of caution, then have an unsafe situation escalate, putting you at further risk. By calling 911, two things occur: 1) a police response is initiated, and 2) your location is shared/logged. Note, most 911 systems automatically do part two now, but still provide the operator with your location.
- Use your phone as a defense weapon. Yes, our phones are expensive. Yes, we have screen protectors and protective cases to keep them intact. But, if “worse comes to worst,” use your phone to fight back. Granted, it may not be the ideal weapon, but it is a blunt object. If you are able to strike your attacker in the face, that can be especially effective.
Garmin Watch Safety Features
However, cell phones are not the only technology aide to help keep you safe. Most Garmin watches now offer safety and tracking features (the link shows five models that offer these features). The two options are Incident Detection, and Garmin Assistance. The purpose of the Incident Detection is to alert your emergency contacts in the event of a fall, but some reviews state this feature did not work very well. For Garmin Assistance, you press a watch button that sends your location to pre-selected emergency contacts (via text/email, or both). Note, your smartphone must be with you during your activity for these features to work.