A few days ago an app started to blow up on my timeline. It was called Cell 411 and the premise was dead simple. If you have help, you should be able to get in touch with your most trusted people, right now.
The app gained popularity after an article about how it was being used in South Africa went viral. In South Africa, the police are often corrupt and in some isolated areas, gangs of criminals prey on rural farmers through rape and murder.
The app allows users to connect with their trusted friends and associates at the touch of a button. Users can send messages under the following categories, along with a short note.
- I am pulled over
- Broken car
- Police arrest
- I am in danger
- Stuff on fire
- Being bullied
- Criminal activity
- I am cop blocking
- General alert
- Medical attention
Users can pick which friends are alerted. For example, if you were being followed while you were jogging in Atlanta, you might send a general alert to your local friends, with the note, “A white Impala has been following me.” You can also send pictures and video.
Once the alert will include your coordinates and your squad will get turn by turn directions to your location. You will receive their ETA, who is coming and when they will get there.
Soon, everyone in our house who has a phone will be on the app. It’s so important that even our 15-year-old, who is suspicious and jaded towards everything, was enthusiastic.
But what do you do after you download?
- First, go to their website and read the directions. I know, right?
Let’s be real. If you are serious about turning this into a resource for your worst case scenario, you need to know exactly how it works. Don’t wait until you get an alert to familiarize yourself with the app. Besides, there are a whole lot of features. It wouldn’t surprise me if you were able to find some original ways to use the app.
- Set up your user name and password.
- Add your contacts. This might be the easiest way to start building your Cells, especially as more and more of your friends become familiar with the app.
Cells are how your friends will be organized on the app. This lets you to create different lists for different threats. For example, you might want a Cell full of lawyers and activists, if you are dealing with law enforcement. On the other hand, you’ll want people who are handy if you need help with a flat on I-20. And if you are being mugged in Atlanta, there’s really no need to alert people in New Mexico.
You integrate your contact list by clicking on the gear in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Then click the blue “Contacts” button on the next screen. Note: I tried to integrate my contacts. Minutes passed and nothing happened. This is a new, FREE, app. Glitches are to be expected.
- Reach out on social media.The app allows you to create and generate unique QR codes. Post yours, scan your friend’s.
Snapchat has a similar feature. The difference is, with Snapchat, you can screenshot your friend’s icon and then use it to follow them on the app. With Cell 411, you won’t be able to do that. You’ll have to take a photo of the code. Which means, you have to photograph one device on another device. Or, you can simply enter their email addresses.
- Arrange your Cells. I’m creating one cell for the unique emergencies of parenthood. This will include certain family friends as well as the parents of some of our kid’s friends. I would also include Granddad. He owns the daycare that my youngest daughter attended. He has since become a friend.
I’m also creating a local Cell. One composed exclusively of those in or around my community. Keep in mind, I haven’t talked to all of these people yet, and I can’t guarantee that they will want to take part.
- Get creative. Don’t get caught up on how likely, or unlikely an event might be. Creating a Cell for home invasion doesn’t make you paranoid. Obsessing over home invasion makes you paranoid. Do it and then move on.
I might even compose a Cell for my best zombie apocalypse dream team. Not because I am afraid of zombies; more as a catch-all for if the shit really hit the fan.
- Network. As I was putting together my Cells it occurred to me that I don’t have a whole lot of local friends. That’s a problem. It’s also one of the beauties of Cell 411. It forces you to take inventory of your personal network.
I’ll be talking to some of my kid’s friend’s parents. We are all in the same community and we all have a shared interest – the wellbeing of our children.
- Meet. You’ve already agreed to get each other’s backs. Why not take it further. Reach out to those folks in your cells. Talk to them and create a general plan. Have a barbecue. Whatever; just get together in real life.
Remember that? That thing happening outside of Facebook and Instagram? Cell 411 thrives on a strong personal community. Go make that happen.
Cell 411 is available for Android and iOS. You can download it here.
As you go through the features, you’ll probably come up with some ideas that I haven’t thought of. For example, I didn’t talk about the patrol mode, which allows you to respond to the alerts from all of the users within a certain radius. It’s called Patrol Mode, and I kind of see it as a way to advertise that you are vulnerable. I’m simply not comfortable with it. If you can think of great uses for it or any other feature, I want to know.