There is a very beautiful-by-day, creepy-by-night area of DC called Rock Creek Park. In daytime hours people jog and walk among the trees, trails, and creek water, but at night the park becomes poorly-lit and a little terrifying. The fact that Chandra Levy’s remains were found here doesn’t do much for the park’s nighttime reputation either.
A couple of years ago, I found myself zipping through Rock Creek Park well after midnight on back of a Vespa owned by a man I had just met through OkCupid. Sounds like a romantic first date. right?
As we made our way down these empty roads, surrounded by forest, a terrifying thought occurred to me: No one knows where I am, and no one would know to look for me until Monday when I don’t show up for work.
I got home safely that evening (and I saw the Vespa-man a few more times before he left me for his French ex-girlfriend…), but I was also a bit of an idiot for not letting someone know I was going on a date. And for hopping on the back of a stranger’s vehicle. (I did wear a helmet though!)
Enter Kitestring, a totally free new safe-call service that makes sure you get home safe. Contrary to every write-up I have seen for the service so far, it is NOT an App. Kitestring is just a web and SMS-based service. This enables them to add features and fix bugs immediately.
To get started with the service, you simply visit their website, sign up, and enter a list of emergency contacts. When you are ready to head out, you send a text message to the services phone number or enter the information online, letting it know when you expect to return. At your expected return time, Kitestring will send you an SMS to see that you made it home okay. If all is well, you simply reply to the text letting Kitestring know you’re safe and sound. If you don’t respond, the service contacts your emergency contacts.
A few issues that popped into my head as I learned more about the service: What if an attacker takes my phone and checks in for me? What happens if I am in trouble, can I use the service to alert my contacts immediately? What happens if my battery dies?
Well, Kitestring keeps kicking butt like your Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, best friends would on your behalf:
Kitestring lets you set a secret check-in word so only you can let the service know you’re okay. The incorrect check-in word will not work. You can also set a secret distress code. Kitestring will pretend like you have ended your trip early, but will actually alert your contacts. And, if your phone runs out of battery you won’t be able to check in with the app, so it will still notify your emergency contacts when it doesn’t hear from you. This could potentially cause issues like falsely terrifying some friends and family, but, I would lean towards better safe than sorry in case the battery dies because you are, say, locked in someone’s trunk.
Overall, Kitestring is a free and easy way to make sure you get home safe wherever you are. Technically, Kitestring may be used in many countries, but the interface is English-only for now and international SMS rates may apply outside the United States.