Emergency+App

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 14:25
ThreadID: 119152 Views:2402 Replies:5 FollowUps:22
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Some of you might already know about this but I've just found out about it and thought it was relevant to share here. The Emergency+App is a free app developed by Australia's emergency services and their Government and industry partners. Available from Google Play & App Store the app uses GPS functionality built into smart phones to help a Triple Zero (000) caller provide critical location details required to mobilise emergency services.

Some people think that GPS positions stored in the phone are automatically accessible by the 000 call centre (as it is in CSI TV shows etc), but in fact the caller is required to describe their location. In times of crisis when you need to provide your location - people often get quite flustered. I personally haven't installed or tested the the app but it certainly sounds like a good thing to have on your phone when you're travelling - obviously it ONLY works when there is a mobile service so isn't going to help if you're in the middle of the CSR but with all the mining operations around the outback now you'd be surprised how much service you can actually pick up so I wouldn't discount it's relevance to our community.

Here's the link I was sent (from my child's school actually) - Emergency+

And a page published by the AMA HERE

I'd be interested to hear any comments from people that have already got it installed as to how it works - does it simply display your GPS position on the phone for you to quote to the operator or what else does it do?

Remember - even if you have a GPS with you, in the emergency you might be the one incapable of making the call and the easier it is for others to get help to arrive the better your chances of survival.

Michelle Martin
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 16:35

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 16:35
Sounds very useful Michelle.

From this Government site it states .... "displays the GPS coordinates of the phone's location that the caller can read out to the emergency operator."

So it would seem that it does not transmit the coordinate data.
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Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:25

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:25
I installed it. It displays your position which you then have to give to the operator. There are three buttons on the screen, one to call 000, one for SES and one for Police. Obviously I cannot make test calls to confirm this, but I assume that when you do call one of those your position will remain displayed.

It's a great idea, but there are a few caveats

1) If your GPS is not on it gets its position from triangulating phone towers. That is a very approximate position; on my test from my home it was 1.5km out. However, about 20 seconds after I selected GPS on, it reported my position exactly. In either case, as well as reporting coordinates it also reports an address.

My experience in talking with my non-technical friends and family is that many think that because their phone knows their approximate position they think GPS is on, when in fact it may not be. I think there's a potential problem there.

2) If you want it accurate all the time, having the GPS on continuously will reduce battery life.

3) The displayed lat/long is in quite small font. There is room on the screen to make it bigger, and I think that should be taken advantage of to assist those with poor eyesight and anyone under stress.

Having been in an emergency situation (in the line of fire from illegal shooters in a nat. park) and being asked for my location, this app would have been very handy.

It's a great idea, just realise its limitations.

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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:27

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:27
PS. It does not transmit or SMS positional data to the operator. There are a number of suggestions re that in the app feedback in Google Play.
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Follow Up By: ExplorOz Team - Michelle - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:29

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 17:29
Good followup and clarification Frank, thanks for that. Also interesting that in your opinion you think it would have been useful in the emergency you had. Therefore, it is something we should try to promote more people put on their phones. There's a lot of silly apps people clutter up their phones with, but I would think something like this would be a good thing to have - just because you never know when you might need it.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 19:08

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 19:08
Would of course NOT work where there are no towers to get the AGPS information from.

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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 19:47

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 19:47
In which case, not only would there be no positional data but no coverage to make the call with that device :-)

A number of sat phone handsets either have GPS built in or can get an approximate position, presumably from satellite triangulation - eg the Qualcomm Globalstar handset - and can display positional info.

It would be interesting to know what address info the Emergency+ app provides in non-urban areas.

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 20:18

Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 at 20:18
AGPS doesn't need phone towers, it still uses satellite. The phone towers assist in a quicker fix or when the satellite drops due to terrain or cloud cover.
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 09:06

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 09:06
Hullo Mike H9
You make the comment that "satellite drops due to terrain or cloud cover".
In 15 years of using the GPS at sea and on land I can not recall any instance of degraded positioning when there has been heavy cloud cover, including rain.
Could you please refer me to a source for this assertion as I would like to follow it up.
Thanks
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 10:45

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 10:45
I've lost satellite numerous times on some smartphones particularly the original iphone under heavy cloud cover or rain. I had the iphone and ipad sitting side by side with the ipad (a good gps device) still getting position and the iphone floundering with a lost satellite message. It only ever happened when a long way from phone service. Consequently I had a very poor opinion of the original iphone as a gps device when phone signal wasn't there. It still worked most of the time without the mobile signal, but was very sensitive to conditions. Both used the same system but I felt the ipad must have had a better receiver. I suppose it does depend on the size and quality of the antenna in any particular device. The later model phones are better.

I also completely lose Foxtel satellite signal during heavy cloud or rain, usually when it is the most important moment in whatever I'm watching. Thr Foxtel "lost satellite" message is the first indication that I'm in for a drenching downpour.

My satphone has trouble sometimes too but usually just from the terrain as the satellite is up over New Guinea somewhere I believe. I hardly ever turn the satphone on so don't know about heavy rain effect on it.

I've never had trouble with dedicated gps devices under those conditions, except for terrain or tall buildings throwing the position off on occasions. My little bluetooth mouse gps has been pretty much faultless for many years.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:15

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:15
Certainly, if you Google this question of 'cloud cover' a number of hits will declare that there is no significant decrease in GPS performance due to rain or cloud cover.
Nevertheless, my Iridium 9555 takes a little longer to 'register' under solid cloud and my car GPS navigator takes considerably longer (~60 seconds) to establish sufficient satellites to begin operating. Both seem unaffected once locked on.
As with most things, perhaps the Queensland clouds are of superior quality? (or just more dense?) lol
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 14:56

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 14:56
Hi - at anyone time there are a number for things that may affect how fast a gps will acquire signal. I often wonder how people who claim that cloud cover/rain increases lock on time eliminate all other possible causes (they don't obviously). My understanding is that cloud cover and rain have no measurable (if any) effect on gps signal transmission/reception, if it did the hole system wouldn't work very good a lot of the time. Any "evidence" to the contrary that I have ever seen/heard appears to be purely circumstantial with no scientific credibility i.e. it was cloudy and my gps took ages to lock on = clouds cause problem = fail. More evidence required.

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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 17:33

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 17:33
You have nailed it Greg! :-)
There are just too many variables impacting on acquisition time to make off the cuff correlations.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 17:56

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 17:56
So Greg, because you attest that.... "at any one time there are a number of things that may affect how fast a gps will acquire signal'... you dismiss the observations of others without determining the circumstances of their scrutiny. Very unbiased indeed!
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:15

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:15
? ..Not the readers job to determine "the circumstances of their scrutiny". If there is additional information it should be supplied by the person carrying out the "experiment" otherwise doubt will exist (in my mind at least) about the validity of the conclusions drawn.

e.g. Think I can safely state that many people who think that cloud and rain has affected their GPS acquisition times have totally ignored similar slow lock in occurrences when conditions have been perfect (based on the fact that this is what I have seen). Why would this be? Could it actually be other things that are affecting gps signal/lock in time? No! surely not.

It's not a "biased" way of looking at things, its adherence to the Scientific Method - Google it. Also look up "old wives tale" :)

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Greg
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:23

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:23
Nor the reader's job to summarily dismiss another's observation.
Alright, you go first then Greg. You provide the support to your "number of things that may affect etc." then I will tell you the circumstances of my observations.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:47

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:47
oh well if you wish..quickly...

Methods/results/conclusions - did you write all this down or just remember it? If you are just recalling it (in particular methods and results) then likely an immediate fail. Needs to be written down in detail at time

Your location

Date

Time

GPS type, antenna type, battery charge, software version, SD card, type. Maps/waypoints auto load/unloaded.

What process does the gps go through upon start up. Is this consistent in all cases.

Timing device - methods in detail - estimating (hence use of ~ I see), guessing or using a stop watch?

GPS location - In car/on person

Location in car, plug in to power or battery

What type of car - windscreen treatment/tinting/sunroof

Direction car was facing. People/obstructions in car that could potentially block signal.

Cloud rating (heavy/light - objective or subjective assessment?)

Rain rating (heavy/light - objective or subjective assessment?)

GPS sat constellation/Number of GPS sats in "view". Number ultimately locked onto, number not.

In all cases (good and bad weather) - Extent of weather conditions (local/regional). Weather conditions between each sat and your gps (they are not all above you head - some are at acute angles - what was the "weather" like along the total extent of each signal gps path).

Last location/date/time GPS was turned on previous to "experiment" commencing.

Terrain/Buildings/Vegetation/Cars/trucks etc in vicinity.

Number of times "experiment" repeated in ideal conditions and "raining/cloudy" conditions.

That should do for time being.

Have to go to work - with my gps in hand (hope its not cloudy :)

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Greg

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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:53

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 18:53
"Nor the reader's job to summarily dismiss another's observation."

Wrong - I am not dismissing anyone's observations - just the conclusions drawn from them. I can only work off the observations presented - and as stated they are limited and dont prove or come close to proving anything. On matters of science you have to be "scientific" in your approach.. at least a wheeny little bit please.

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Greg
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 19:39

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 19:39
Oh dear!! Two consecutive Followups. Foul. I appeal.

However yes, I attended to all those elements except one .... failure to note the device serial number. My wife may have substituted my GPS Navigator on me! And me a trained scientific expert. Ah well, sometimes one fails. LOL
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 10:34

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 10:34
Michelle, for what its worth here are my ideas as to should ExplorOz promote this app.

For people who only travel on the tar it is probably a handy tool. For those who hit the dirt, which is probably most people who visit this site, I would not be promoting this product. When going remote you should have your emergency communications that are as close to 100% reliable as possible. As a minimum I would suggest that this is a satellite phone and a GPS enabled PLB. This is not a huge expense these days and is very simple and easy to understand and easily promoted. Many of us have additional
devices such as HF radio, Spot trackers etc which add another layer of safety but also perform other functions. This app will simply not work in all the places that one would expect many users of ExplorOz would go, so to promote it with conditions is open to misunderstanding. I would certainly encourage everybody to load this app on their smartphone, after all you can never have to many bullets in the armoury, but we need to be clear it is in the second line of defence not the front line.

The simple reality is that if you activate your GPS enabled PLB and provided you have registered your satellite phone number with AMSA where you register your PLB, you can expect a call on your satellite phone in a short period of time and it does not matter where you are. Even if your phone fails, or for what ever reason cannot be used, your exact position, and the fact you need urgent help is known. What the satellite phone does is that in many circumstances the help required is not "urgent" and arrangements can be made with phone calls without setting of the PLB. If it is "urgent", then after you have activated your PLB, the satellite phone enables you to let the authorities know what help is required and you receive feedback as to what to do until help arrives and when that help will arrive. (Peace of mind). On ExplorOz there is a wealth of information on this subject but it would take a bit to wade through and understand. Most Australians would have a fair idea of what remote means, but to someone from overseas remote may mean more than 100 kilometre from a McDonald's.

Michelle you ask should the emergency app be promoted, my suggestion would be to highlight more prominently the benefits of the PLB satphone combo.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:29

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:29
A very well expressed response Chris.
In many years of administering industrial safety protocols I have come to appreciate the value of not 'cutting corners'. A small additional expenditure in calibre in a protective device can assure the difference between operating reliably or possible utter failure.
Not to say that this app is unworthy as an addition to the arsenal.
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Follow Up By: Member - Gnomey - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 14:35

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 14:35
Hear what you say Chris and also agree with Allan that it could be a useful addition to, rather than a substitute for, established devices designed for remote travel. Of course not all travel is remote and to get remote one spends a fair amount of time on roads with traffic. Courses and horses.

My thought was it could be handy for non remote travel and people who aren't packing PLBs and sat phones or even a gps navigator device. So just saying in that context for members and folks they know it could have a place. Tip of my hat to Michelle.

BTW I was rolling along the A1 a couple of weeks back and had Oziexplorer going on the tablet just for the heck of it. A thought came to me though that if I happened upon a bingle it would be handy to be able to give 000 the lat and long of my position as I often wouldn't know otherwise where exactly I was between X and Y towns.

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Mark
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Follow Up By: ExplorOz Team - Michelle - Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 14:08

Monday, Jun 15, 2015 at 14:08
Actually I was using the proverbial "we" meaning travellers and forumites could perhaps consider promoting this more to our friends/family. Of course the app is limited by mobile range so for ExplorOzing - this is not a solution that we would recommend within our Trek Notes etc as most of our Treks head off into remote country and we clearly promote PLBs, Sat Phones, Sat Tracking etc.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:20

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:20
Well worded, thoughtful post, Chris.

Remote certainly means different things to many people! Watching the Channel 7 coverage of the recent, tragic gas explosion in Ravenshoe Qld. The young reporter used the term "remote" to describe the township of Ravenshoe, a mere 1.5-2 hours from Cairns!

Always thought remote meant somewhere that had no mobile phone service, dirt roads, no Woolies or Coles and all medical services were provided by the RFDS. Maybe I was wrong?

Bob

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Follow Up By: TomH - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:43

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:43
We must live in a "remote" area then because we have no Woolies or Coles and very poor cell phone reception.

However we live less than 5 km from a Telstra tower LOL
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:54

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 11:54
I live 500m from a Telstra tower and get zero to one bar reception.
It sure can feel 'remote'.
Perhaps the Queensland clouds suck the signal up! lol

But I did find a way around it. ;-) Bob's you're uncle. (No, not you Bob Y).
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 12:41

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 12:41
Alan, its not where you live that affects reception, its where you are ringing from. lol
As for the clouds in Queensland, I did not think there were any. If you do have them, then the QLD tourist bureau should be had up for false advertising.
Chris
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 15:20

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 15:20
We are all assuming here that in any emergency that the GPS position is the first thing people would want to know, - not so. In Aug last year while in the Gammon Ranges I inadvertently triggered the HELP button on my Spot device which sent a message to my daughter that I need help. She was able to get onto the local Ranger but when she mentioned my GPS position he said he had no GPS equipment and to just describe where I was. When he did turn up I was wondering why this vehicle was driving up and down the track, at night, and in pouring rain. I was camped about 200 metre off the track and if I was somehow incapacitated and had not gone down to road to investigate I might still be there now in a rather smelly condition. Three months later I was marooned by rain in the Great Victorian Desert just north of Zanthus on the Trans railway line in WA. On calling the Kalgoorlie police to advise them of my situating and that I was fine with ample supplies, they did not want my GPS position as it "meant nothing to them" they want a description of my location so I gave them about 7 kilometres north of Zanthus on the track to Cundeelee.
Now if you are on a track I suppose you will be fairly quickly found. But what happens if you have gone to collect firewood, or just exploring, and you had a stroke and could not move. Without a GPS position it could take sometime to find you and could even be the difference between life and death.
Hopefully this will change over time. The solution right now is to train a family member or friend who is the first point of contact by the emergency services to understand a GPS position and how to be able to describe to anyone exactly where you are. In my case it is my daughter who would fire up Oziexplorer on my home computer and she has all the maps in the world. If not at home uses Google Earth.
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