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LIVING COLOURS: ‘We are trying to work with first responders so Mohafiz alerts appear on their systems’

LIVING COLOURS: ‘We are trying to work with first responders so Mohafiz alerts appear on their systems’

Fahd Khan was forming a tech company when he heard about the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. He says he realised one could pursue a lot in tech, but “the need of the hour in third world countries is a safety mechanism that works”.

Mr Khan then created the app Mohafiz, which informs friends and family if the user is in danger. The app has been downloaded over 56,000 times and saved more 3,000 people, he said. Dawn caught up with Mr Khan to discuss the app, as well as the need for a better emergency response system.

Q: What are some of the features in the app?

A: The app has a general distress button which sends out a text to your loves ones with your exact location. It connects the user with the police, Nacta, ambulance services and other first response services. It also has a section for eight special emergencies, including terrorist attacks, armed robbery, accident, medical emergencies, natural calamities, fire, kidnapping and harassment.

We are trying to work with first response and national disaster management authorities so that our alerts show up on their systems. So, for instance, in case of a fire, the relevant authorities will know how many people are still in a building, where they are and before they have set out to respond, they will know the ages of the people in the building, their blood types and other relevant information.

The authorities will be able to quantify the emergency. So, if 10 people are sending out the texts, it is a medium level emergency, but if 100 texts are going out, we know it is a big emergency.

Then, we began noticing people putting up posts on Facebook about needing blood, and finding safe blood in our country is even more difficult. Most blood banks at hospitals prefer donors to come in.

So we made a database and a blood donation function within the app, so anyone who downloads the app can register as a donor when it is needed and if they want to. People can say they are in need for blood through the app and we also coordinate with various blood banks.

Q: What sort of response can someone expect when they send a distress signal?

A: One of our employees had to use the app when we were in the beta testing stage. A friend of hers and I got a distress signal from her and she had classified it as harassment and kidnapping. This woman was smart because she decided to play along till we arrived.

Now, when we called the police, they said they did not know in which station’s jurisdiction the area fell. Because of the app, we knew the exact address she had been taken to. The other friend of hers had some guards with him and we decided to go and get her ourselves. When we were outside the house, we texted her and told her to run. She may not have been able to call or text us in this situation and ask for help.

So, in addition to being able to save our friend, we also stumbled upon a police fallacy that they take time in deciding jurisdiction and finding these fallacies can help improve the system.

Q: What are you doing next with Mohafiz?

A: We are in the process of forming a call centre, so if you are in some sort of emergency, like a relative at the hospital needs blood, we tell you to relax and be with family while we arrange for the blood.

We also formed a volunteer force in December 2016 which is, as of now, 95,000 strong and is being trained by Rescue 1122, and this is just across Punjab. We are trying to get the other provinces onboard as well.

Of these, 30,000 volunteers have received international certification for life saving skills including first aid, fire-fighting, CPR etc.

In case of emergencies, 75pc of the force will be sent off to the site of the emergency and the rest to hospitals where they will undertake relief activities such as arranging for blood, helping heirs with accommodation and other issues etc.

Q: What are some of the problems you are facing with Mohafiz?

A: We are trying to get the police and other law enforcement agencies on board, even if to the extent that we develop a system in which we can alert them about emergencies and quantify the emergency.

We have approached the police in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, but have not had any luck as yet. If we can get the police on board, we can reduce the number of unidentified victims. Now, imagine pairing the system with the Safe City Project. The moment someone issues a distress alert, cameras can zoom in on that area and you have a record of everything that’s happening.

I think the problem is that we are not a tech savvy country and we do not understand the efficacy of technology. It is a case of, what is the need for this system for now.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017

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