Israeli ‘SOS’ Apps Launched in Wake of Recent Kidnappings

Image: A person uses a cellphone.

A person uses a cellphone. Francisco Seco / AP file

Following the recent kidnapping of three Jewish teens, two Israeli companies have launched search-and-rescue apps utilizing their experience in helping people in distress.

United Hatzalah is a medical response service with a fleet of over 300 "ambucycles" (a motorcycle ambulance) and 2,300 volunteers who support state emergency teams. On a day-to-day mission their teams provide fast and free medical emergency first response throughout Israel.

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The organization decided to utilize their teams and experience to create an app called "SOS" that allows users to immediately dispatch a distress call and their precise GPS location to a dispatch center and to the Israeli police. Once the app is open, the user needs only to swipe the blank screen in any direction to trigger a distress message.

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"Our main mission at United Hatzalah is to get to medical emergencies within two minutes all over the country,” says United Hatzalah’s president and founder Eli Beer. “With the recent kidnappings, we feel obliged to share our knowledge and technology to provide that extra layer of protection for the people of Israel."

The app is available on in English and Hebrew.

The second app is called "Open i," and up until recently was used to help protect women that were sexually attacked. The app lets the user designate 10 contact people that would receive a distress SMS once a red button is pressed on the app's screen. This app also sends an exact GPS location and makes an alert sound that is meant to startle the would-be kidnapper. There is a "stop" button that would cancel the procedure, but once that button is pressed it triggers the front camera and a photo of the attacker is taken.

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that, since the beginning of 2013, terror organizations have attempted 44 times to kidnap Israelis.