Honolulu 911 App
911 App that needs to be developed

Honolulu 911 App

Honolulu 911 calls go like this: Your heart is racing. You either witness, or suffer, an illegal activity. You’re nervous, everything is coming at you. You manage to get to the phone, often your cell phone, hit the numbers and as the quickly pick up you blurt out your narration of the facts and they say “so do you want the paramedics or the police department?”

The first response doesn’t even pretend to care about what’s going on.

Then they connect you, and then they start asking you questions. 5 seconds, ten seconds. Enough for a crime to be committed, for people to escape. More importantly, enough time for the attacked to swat the cellphone out of your hand. By talking you draw attention from the criminal to yourself as the most dangerous person in the room. You’re the one bringing the police. The most dangerous outcome for society is when it is more rewarding for us to protect ourselves than each other. That’s the endpoint on the road to anarchy.

And that’s not where it stops. THEN they start asking you questions: “Where are you? What does he look like? Tell me more? What did you say? Could you spell that?” I’ve listened to literally hundreds of 911 calls. It is like they are trained to keep you on the phone FOREVER. When the best thing by far is to say “Okay, run.” They want to ask questions until they are blue in the face.

You know, when you’re hiding in the closet and trying to be quiet, the state doesn’t even accept text messages. DUI attorneys accept text messages. I’m hoping the Government becomes at least as advanced as them.

Honolulu 911 Solutions

By now hopefully we realize the way we operate is not to only point out a problem, but to offer a solution. So here’s the solution, the Honolulu 911 APP! Clearly, in our society of cellphones and smartphones. Of Galaxies and iPhones and HTC and SONY there is no reason we should still be using 911 technology from Alexander Graham Bell.  Now what follows is designed for Honolulu 911, but really it could work for any wired metropolitan city.

Start with the big three:

Who, where, when

  1. The message can automatically send the phone number, and name associated with the phone to whoever receives the text messages.
  2. Yelp knows where you are. AroundMe knows where you are. GoogleMaps knows where. Clearly this app could send your location.
  3. And the exact time you sent it would log in the record.

and the big three are taken care of!

Precise information for Honolulu 911

Clearly there’s more precise Information that needs to be told to the officers.  Two things happen. ONE, we decide what that is in advance and we can put that ON THE PAGE, that minimizes time to process the information. Already after the case we ask witnesses to fill out statements and ask particular questions

911 Speed

If we really sit down and think about it, for many, the speed of typing on the phone has long surpassed the the speed of talking, answering questions, and processing information. Watch any kid send on a phone three sentences of info (or three paragraphs) and at the same time say the same three things and ask the next person to process it and filter it into the right categories. The typing will win every time. And these are our next generation of witnesses!

Outlay of the 911 App


911 App Honolulu

First, look at the top three buttons:  Police, Fire and Ambulance. These are the big three and they’re clickable. what that means is, you can request one, two, or all three.  No information is sent until the SEND button is pressed in the lower Right corner. These buttons are clearly not binding on the dispatcher who would respond to the message, but merely advisory. This is included since the very first question you are asked when you call 911 is “Police or Ambulance”. A large part of the purpose of the app is to get around the lag time it takes to process that first question and direct you the right way. Especially

when for very serious crimes the answer is YES.

Then we move to the second row of Honolulu 911 App buttons

The second row is our optional buttons. These are designed to help whoever the dispatcher is give more information to whoever the first responder is going to be. While not mandatory, these are the helpful questions that would keep you on the phone for a thousand years The second row first includes a spinner that lays out a number of different potential reasons to call for an emergency responder.

These are just advisory, and broad messages, clearly the police would need to decide on the final list. I would point out, maybe 10 should be the maximum. We don’t want people getting lost in lines of words they need to bifurcate.

911 app category slider
The slider for the 911 app category

Photo and Sound Clip are a little more time consuming, which is why they are optional.  Clearly Photo is important. Since much of the thought behind this app is to reduce words and processing time, and one picture is worth a thousand words, the picture option needs to be present. Imagine the benefits to having a picture of a. the scene, b. the offender, c. the victim, d. ANYTHING. Currently the design is one picture per message. If you need multiple pictures, use multiple messages.

Sound Clip is if you don’t want to type or are poor at typing or if the actually sound of what’s happening is most important.  Imagine if, during listening to your neighbor’s husband threaten her, you were able to record the threat and then did not have to actually appear in court to testify. Imagine if, during the heat of passion, you could witness by just recording the occurrence and sending it in.

I would suggest 1. the recording be processed the same way Google Voice processes their messages in a sense to get a typed version instantly. But also 2. It is preserved digitally as a sound file, in order to be used affirmatively in a prosecution. A voice recording is even better than a picture when it comes to independent  verifiable evidence. It is very hard to say that a recorded threat never happened. It is very hard to say a police officer told you to record a certain statement (where it is very common to say that on a written statement. “I am willing to prosecute” anyone?)

Finally the third row: A text box and a SEND button. The text box is the same as any other app you can write in. You have the keyboard, on the iPhone 5 or equipped phones you can type via voice. And the SEND, here shown with a little envelope signal. In the time it makes to hit three clicks, someone has your location, information, and identifying factors they need to initiate a life-saving procedure. And that’s what every step of this conversion needs to be about. What can we do to save more lives.

Evidentiary rules

When I first proposed this solution the pushback I immediately got from people in the know is “How does this get around the Rules of Evidence? This is all excludable evidence.” Which is a valid worry, but let’s answer it.

  1. It’s not. It’s clearly all “present sense impression” and admissible the same way any Honolulu 911 call would be. In fact, it is more admissible, since a 911 call includes a government employee asking questions. The App in this case would by an uninvited communication, and obviously an excited utterance.
  2. Who cares! 911 is about saving lives, not catching criminals. That’s what it has to be about. It has to. Let’s not forget that.


Honolulu 911 App: In Closing

Now I don’t have the computer background to actually program this APP, but I have the legal experience to say what is necessary and what is extraneous. I suppose the next step is asking the Police department, or the city, or the State to get on board with some financing.  Or maybe just a computer programmer somewhere who wants to go a good deed and make things smooth for the next generation. Or if doing good things is not persuasive, maybe someone who just wants their code to take over the world. You want to talk about disruptive, explosive growth? Think about it, this is an App that should really come standard with every phone.This app is coming soon, who’s going to make it. Or make it well?

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