Local 4 tests devices designed to help you stay safe in public places

Canton public safety officer goes over steps to protect yourself

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer, Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor

CANTON, Mich. - Anyone can be a victim of a crime, and that's why Canton public safety officer Patty Esselink said everyone should take steps to protect themselves.

Esselink said when you're out in public, always to do the following:

  • Keep your head up and out of your phone.
  • Don't wear ear buds.
  • Stay in areas where there are people.
  • Before you go anywhere alone, let someone know.
  • Walk with confidence.

As for carrying a personal safety device, Esselink said whether it's an alarm, pepper spray or an app, if the device is at your disposal and will make life easier and help you feel safer, get it. She also recommends you practice how to use your device.

"The goal of the sound is to draw attention to you, so individuals who are going to commit a crime, (they) don't want witnesses, don't want people to be around to see them commit those crimes because then, when the police get called, people can give a description of them, so the goal is to draw as much attention to yourself as possible," Esselink said.

Local 4 special project interns tested a few different alarms at Heritage Park in Canton to see how they worked. 

"Great day to test. You had lawnmowers, you have people building, so there's cars going by, the wind's blowing. There's all these natural noises that you may encounter while you're out and about," Esselink said. "It's not always perfectly calm and quiet when you're out going for your run or your walk."

The Robocopp Sound Grenade portable SOS alarm costs anywhere from $12 to $20. Its 120-decibel alarm sounds with the pull of a pin.

Esselink liked how loud it was.

The Ahh!-larm super-loud personal alarm is heart-shaped with glitter and is meant to be worn on backpacks, purses, keys or a leash, according to the packaging. This alarm has a panic button that sounds a 115-decibel alarm. It costs anywhere from $115 to $125.

Esselink liked how loud this one was, too.

"It would turn our heads to look at you to see what was going on, Esselink said.

Athena Safety Wearable from the ROAR for Good company does a lot more than sound an alarm.

It uses your smartphone's GPS to pinpoint your location. You can also download the corresponding app to your phone and let contacts know where you are so they can track you. Before you go anywhere, you can set a status in the app that lets your contacts know what you’re doing, like going for a run or a walk.

The safety device is wearable with a magnet that holds it in place, allowing you to wear it on your clothes, a purse or bag. Athena costs $129.

"I like that it's on your body. I like that it's wearable. The magnet is very strong," Esselink said. "I think it's convenient, you wouldn't be juggling anything in your hands and your hands are free, so if you have to defend yourself, you would have your hands available to do that."

Athena has a SilentROAR option -- if a person presses the button three times, his or her location is shared with pre-selected contacts. Its Alarm Mode option is triggered by pressing the button down for three seconds. It sounds a 95-decibel alarm and sends a distress signal to emergency contacts. The device will follow you while you’re on the move and let your contacts know where you are while in distress.

While Esselink liked that the device allows a person to be hands-free, she wanted the alarm to be louder.

"It wasn't loud enough for me to look at you and think, 'Hey, what's going on, does she need help, what is that noise?'" Esselink said.

ROAR for Good company provided the following statement in regards to wanting the alarm to be louder:

"The Athena's 90-decibel alarm is specifically intended to deter the immediate threat of attack by audibly letting an attacker know that an alarm has been activated. Simultaneously, an emergency message is sent to contacts for immediate help."

Esselink didn't like that a person has to press the button for a few seconds before it triggers the alarm. She worries that might be too long if someone is trying to defend themselves or get away.

The company also responded to this concern:

"The Athena is intended for both emergency situations and everyday use to ensure everyone can live their best and safest lives. It has two modes of alarm- three presses triggers a silent alarm, and one long press triggers an audible alarm. Athena users can choose which mode works best for them in any situation. Either mode sends an emergency message for help to contacts with a GPS location. "

Pepper spray is another option for personal safety. However, make sure it's easy to get to in an emergency. Never keep it in the bottom of a bag or purse because there is no time to get to it should you need it. People should also practice how to use it.

No matter which personal safety device someone considers using, Esselink wants everyone to remember you are your best defense.

"Overall, with the devices that we had today, they're great in a perfect world, but sometimes there's different things that are going on while you're out there, so relying on a particular device may not always be the best way to do it. Sometimes it's just your voice. You yelling, you running and you getting attention by your own, what you were given, your voice and your ability to run," Esselink said.

Click here to visit the ROAR for Good Instagram and Facebook pages.

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