ISLAMABAD: After the attack on Army Public School (APS) in December last year, Fahd Mahmood Khan took his seven-year-old son out of school.

“I was shocked that someone could do that to little children,” he said, adding that he was too scared to let his child go to school, now that there were not safe anymore.

After tutoring his son at home for three months, Fahd realised that he was denying his son the chance to socialise and have fun with other children his age. His son could not always be kept home, he thought; there had to be another solution.

‘Mohafiz’ sends out distress signals in case of emergencies like fire, kidnapping and terrorist attacks

Thinking about making the world safer for his child and others, Fahd Khan first gave up his weapons dealership that he had run for five years.

Then, inspired by the tragedy of December 16, 2014, he came up with the idea for a phone application that could help in saving lives. After all, he though, the one thing people always have on them is a phone. Soon after, he started working on a phone app called ‘Mohafiz’ or guardian. The 5.5MB app is now completed and can be downloaded free from app stores.

Compatible with both Android and iOS, the application requires the user to fill in some additional information like their blood group. Hospitals can also contact nearby users willing to donate blood in emergencies through this function.

It requires users to nominate family members and friends as emergency contacts and has a button that sends out a distress signal to all the people nominated on the list.

Pressing the button opens a new window with icons for fire, accident, flood, earthquake and theft to specify the nature of the accident. A mask and gun icon has been added to signify a terrorist attack.

Fahd Khan explained: “The icons make it easier for the nominated emergency contacts to respond accordingly. When I was developing the app, I kept in mind both tech savvy people and those not comfortable with using technology, which is why the Mohafiz has been developed using colours and icons that are easy to recognise.”

Once the distress signal is sent, it takes 30 seconds to send the receiver the exact location of the user. The message can also be sent out if the signals are bad. The user can send out a distress signal even when the application is not active or if the phone is turned off by pressing down on the power button twice. “So, for example, if the user is being held at gun point, they can still reach into their pocket or bag and press the power button twice to send out their location to the respondent,” Fahd Khan said.

He said the app had helped save a colleague from a possible kidnapping when she had sent out a distress signal. “I hope the user never has to use the app, but if they are in such a situation, they now have something that will help,” the app developer said.

In a country where ambulance services and the police cannot be relied on to respond quickly and where the government does not have the capability of responding to individual emergencies, Fahd Khan hopes a service like this will help fill the void and save lives by giving real time data to their nominated emergency contact persons.

“In a world where we are vulnerable to risks from all sides, particularly our part of the world, and where the government departments have limited capabilities, we can’t hold the government responsible for everything. We, the people, have to take some steps for our own safety as well,” Fahd Khan said.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2015