کد خبر: 204942
How a speedy emergency services app is saving lives
Many of us assume that if you call an emergency number like 911, 999 or 112, someone will answer quickly and help will arrive soon wherever we are in the world.

But across Africa, this isn't always the case, according to BBC.

In Kenya's capital Nairobi, for example, there are more than 50 different numbers for emergency services. Ringing round trying to find an available crew can be a lengthy — and potentially life-jeopardizing — process.

You can wait two or three hours for an ambulance to arrive.

"You just take for granted that 911 [the US emergency services number] exists, and we did as well," said Caitlin Dolkart.

 

She and her business partner Maria Rabinovich had both been working in the health industry in Nairobi for years before starting their company Flare.

"We thought — what would we do in an emergency? So we started asking people to spot ambulances and realized there were so many around and no one has any idea where they are," said Dolkart.

The pair created an Uber-style online platform that aims to connect people to the closest emergency responders.

Private ambulance crews log in to the system at the start of a shift. Their locations can then be tracked and monitored by any hospital registered to Flare.

Patrick Kinyenje, who works as emergency coordinator or dispatcher at Care Hospital in Nairobi said, "Within the system we have different ambulance companies, so depending on the resources we work together.”

Flare aggregates all the available ambulances on a map so dispatchers like Patrick can choose the most appropriate vehicle based on where it is, the expertise of the crew, and the equipment on board.

It also incorporates Google maps traffic data to help emergency workers navigate the city's notorious traffic jams.

"The response time that we have seen has gone down from 162 minutes, which is the average, to about 15 to 20 minutes," said Dolkart.

Hospitals pay a subscription fee to access the service whilst individuals in the capital can sign up for membership, with levels of cover starting from around $15 a year.

The website promises access to a 24/7 hotline of emergency professionals.

"The membership product is like your emergency and healthcare concierge," said Rabinovich.

The service is similar to ones run by Red Cross Kenya, Amber Health in India and Murgency in Dubai.

But will this business model really work in a country where $15 is three months salary for many people?

Stellah Bosire-Otieno of the Kenya Medical Association has her doubts.

"By principle it's an excellent idea. But the target population that can afford it are the middle income earners who most likely have health insurance.

"Those in the low social economic regions wouldn't be able to afford this," she said.

In 2013, the government re-introduced a 999 emergency hotline number for the capital but it was inundated with prank calls and is now rarely answered.

During the recent election violence, the BBC rang the number a few times but didn't get through. On one occasion, someone did pick up the phone, though hung up immediately.

Bethuel Aliwa, who runs ICT Fire and Rescue, a training school and Fire service said, "To be honest it rarely works”.

"Also, the technology of 999 has not changed, people have moved to mobile phone, but I believe 999 is still on analogue, so it is quite a problem," said Aliwa.

A 999 call goes direct to the police who then start looking for the nearest ambulance or fire engine. But there are dozens of numbers for the various emergency services, and often phone numbers belong to individuals rather than agencies.

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