Dubai: Dubai Police’s high-tech security programme, SOS (Save Our Souls) has already saved lives since its launch in 2012.
The service allows people to contact the emergency services at the touch of a button — either via a smartphone application or a wristband. The smartphone application is currently being trialled while 70 people now have the wristband.
Captain Adnan Mohammad Ali, Head of the Innovation Section at the General Department of e-Services at Dubai Police, said that the SOS app has been developed to serve citizens’ needs both inside and outside the country.
Expatriate residents can use the service within the country.
“When the button is pressed the police emergency numbers are dialled. The GPS system will start working and all information about the caller will be at the operations rooms,” he said.
The SOS wristband enables people at risk, such as the elderly and those with special needs, send out a distress signal along with location details at the push of a button.
Three weeks ago an elderly man who lived alone was slipping into a diabetic coma. He managed to use his SOS wristband to alert Dubai police’s command and control room. Ambulance and police patrols rushed to his Satwa home in less than seven minutes.
Police had to break down the door and the man was taken to hospital in critical condition.
He is one of 70 people registered for the service’s initial run. It is now open to everyone.
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Chief of Dubai Police, said the SOS system allows people to send SOS messages to the operations room just by pushing a button on their special wristband. There is no need to speak. The message is instantly transmitted to the operations room and the person’s location is detected. A police patrol and ambulance is then despatched to the location.
“This innovative security programme is the first-of-its kind to be offered by police forces to the public in any place in the world,” he said.
Lieutenant General Dahi said the “Your Security at the Touch of a Button” programme means members of the public facing danger now have a direct link to the police’s command and control room.
Lt Colonel Khazraj Majid Mohammad Al Khazraji, Deputy Director of the Command and Control Centre at the Dubai Police Department, said 70 people were registered for the initial wristband run and now it is available for everyone.
“These SOS wristbands are equipped with special features like a panic button and a GPS system,” he added.
Lt Colonel Al Khazraji said the scheme was introduced as they were trying to find a way to help elderly people, women living on their own and abuse victims get emergency help easily.
“We communicated with the Community Development Authority in Dubai who supplied us with a number of elderly people who needed help and we contacted them and gave them access to the service,” he said.
He said the service speeds up police response and will help preserve crime scenes so evidence can be collected.
Captain Ali said only 20 devices were available when the service was launched.
“The system comprises two devices, the first can be used like a necklace or can be put around the wrist and the other [the SOS call system] can be kept in the house near the wristband or even 40 metres away,” he said.
An elderly man who lived alone in Al Baraha sent police an SOS call via his wristband. Police contacted the man’s son who told police that he just left his father at home and that his father was fine. Emergency crews attended and found the father suffering from a heart attack. The man was taken to hospital.
Another elderly man in Al Mutaina pressed the SOS button on his wristband 269 times in less than 35 days and each time police and ambulance services arrived they discovered he only had minor problems.
Police contacted Dubai Police’s human rights department, who in turn asked the family to pay more attention to the man and take care of him.
One elderly man pressed the SOS button on his wristband 12 times in 20 days and each time his complaint turned out not to be urgent.
However, the last time he pressed the button he actually was is danger and was rushed to hospital.
Lt Gen Dahi said the SOS smartphone app has been tested and will be rolled out soon for public use.
Captain Ali said the app is currently available only for Android phones and allows members of the public to have a direct link to the command and control room.
“If you press the app button you will receive a call back from the command centre in less than two minutes. The centre will call back in cases of an emergency even if you are abroad and if you are here they will also attend the scene,” said Lt Colonel Al Kazraji.
He said pressing the app informs police of the person’s details and GPS location, eliminating the need to speak.
“It works for people out at sea, or in the desert and those who are inside the country or abroad,” he said.
We are developing the service so it can be used by people with special needs.
“With this application our command room can know the location of any Emirati in any place in the world if he has downloaded it from the Apple store or Google Play,” said Captain Ali.
Trials for the new smartphone app brought instant success when it was used to raise the alarm for a UAE handball player who needed an emergency operation in Russia.
He had undergone urgent surgery and he required help from his Embassy over there but he was not able to contact them. He needed Dh100,000 for his hospital costs.
The man contacted the SOS service, who in turn contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The ministry reported the matter to the UAE Embassy who helped the man.
He added that the app links up with criminal records in the command room.
“When an Emirati goes to download the application then he must fill in a document with his name and Emirates ID number which then checks if he has a record,” he said.
“We don’t want this application to be in the hands of a reckless person,” he added.