Abstract

Mobile devices have become popular for personal communication during emergencies as has been observed by researchers from public behavior during crisis situations in the past few years. People mostly use standard text and voice services on mobile devices to communicate during emergencies. However, free form text or voice may not always be the best means of communication due to operational or situational constraints in emergencies. Moreover, current devices are equipped with sensors that can capture rich situational context beyond what text and voice can convey, which can help responders make informed decisions during emergencies. In this paper, we present the design of a system that takes advantage of these features to enhance personal safety by capturing situational information and enables simultaneous communication with groups of people during critical and minor emergency situations. The design focuses on the ability to use the tool without prior training and to learn through usage during minor emergency situations. We developed a prototype, called SafeTogether, based on these design principles and performed a study to evaluate the usability of our system. Results of the study showed that we met our design objectives and helped identify certain usability issues.