KETR

A Low-Tech Solution to a High-Tech 911 Problem

Jan 28, 2018

A little piece of tape is my solution to a bad what-if.

I’m mildly paranoid. Mildly. It’s a kind of hybrid of paranoia and hypochondria; worry of things going wrong that haven’t yet gone wrong and aren’t likely to, but that would be devastating if they did. Think of it like fear of a plane crash. It hasn’t crashed yet and isn’t likely to, but you still worry it’s going to pile drive you right into the ground.

I’m also a relic of the Analog Age, when machines and devices clicked and whirred because they were made of wires and gears. I used to be able to fix my car, for example. Today I need a comp-sci Ph.D. to open the gas tank.

I like the Digital Age fine, don’t get me wrong. It has it’s problems (privacy is a quaint joke and the ability to communicate to an actual person live seems to be waning), but over all, I dig it.

So this isn’t a complaint, it’s just a look at a what-if scenario. Chiefly this one: What happens if I need to call emergency help, but I’ve lost my ability to see?

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Why would you have lost your vision, Scott?
  • Why wouldn’t you be able to call for help, Scott, surely blind people have used cell phones, yes?
  • Seriously, why would you be losing your sight?

The answers are, respectively:

  • I don’t know
  • Yes
  • Fine ‒‒ how about maybe I accidentally spray myself in the face with a chemical, or maybe I’m having a stroke, or maybe I hit my head hard falling off a ladder?

The point is, what if? It doesn’t matter how I’ve lost my ability to see, the problem is I can’t see. And on a smartphone, I can’t feel out the numbers like I could on an old dial/push button phone anchored to a wall. Smartphone screens are flat and smooth. If I close my eyes, I can’t even see to punch in my access code. So how am I supposed to dial for help if I don’t know where the 9 and the 1 are?

The answer to all these woes, it turns out, is Scotch tape.

Think of it like Feng Shui for your phone's landscape.
Credit Photo by Scott Morgan

See, when you push the little button on the side of my phone to activate the screen, that brings up the number pad. But it also brings up a little emergency 9-1-1 button underneath the number. I don’t need to punch in any codes to get to it. If there’s an emergency I just hold that button for a couple seconds and it connects me with 9-1-1.

So I put a tiny piece of tape over that part of the screen. I can still use the screen through it, and now with my eyes shut I can find the 9-1-1 call button by feel.

My emergency 9-1-1 button, featuring Baltimore Orioles screen image, because Orioles in 2018!
Credit Photo by Scott Morgan

If you have that little button, consider the little-piece-of-tape-over-it solution. Like I said, digital tech is great and I’m not likely to lose my vision, but if it happened and I was not near a phone with a raised keypad, the consequences could be disastrous.

And remember something ‒‒ You’re only paranoid if disaster never strikes. Once it strikes, you a freakin’ genius for having prepared.