HILLSBORO, Ore. — Alerting the community when someone is missing, lost, or has wandered away is a key part in bringing them home safely. Oftentimes, families will turn to social media to get the word out, or work closely with law enforcement to push out alerts or conduct a search.
This week, a local company called Q5id launched another avenue of finding missing people: the Guardian app. Developers hope it will help find them faster, using the power of community.
"We want to put the power back into the individual's hand and give them that opportunity to really issue an alert immediately if their loved one goes missing," explained Alexandra Farland, a spokesperson for the app. "Sometimes, they are not that far away and waiting a longer time could cause more issues."
With the push of a button, an alert can be sent out to app subscribers who are located near the last known location of the person who went missing. Everyone in the immediate area can then jump into action and start a physical search.
"The difference with this versus social media. This is going to be a more secure platform. Everyone who is part of the Guardian community does have their identity verified to ensure that they are who they say they are," Farland said.
The app launched this week in Portland. Developers hope to expand into other cities across the West Coast, and eventually, the United States.
"We can grow a community here and then expand from there, because ultimately, you do need a good ratio of volunteers to what we call 'Guardian subscribers' — who actually initiate the alert for their missing loved one — and without the volunteers, there’s no one to look for a missing person."
Several organizations, including Childhelp, recognize and support the app and Q5id's mission.
"There's so much focus in this area — on things like Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts. How do we connect hotlines and get more crisis numbers out there? And those are all great things… None of that is bad. But this is an app that has really been designed with today's age in mind," said Michael Medoro with Childhelp. "How do we capitalize on social behaviors in a way that rescues a child that is in need or in crisis?"
To send out alerts, users will need to subscribe to the app at almost $4 a month. However, to volunteer to find missing people, the app is free.