A Quick Guide to Patronus in Oakland

BlueLight has now become Patronus! Same service, new name.

Here’s a brief overview of the problem Patronus is working to solve — and how we’re solving it in the City of Oakland.

What’s wrong with 911?

While 911 has been our universal emergency number for the past 50 years, its aging technology is far outpaced by the evolving computer in your pocket. Over 70% of 911 calls come from mobile phones — and the 911 system is having trouble catching up.

In a landline world, 911’s current system makes perfect sense. Landlines stay in one place: you can register the number to the 911 database, and your dispatcher will know where you are. But despite years of struggle for slow improvement, there’s still no unified way to make sure 911 can find you when you’re calling from a cell phone. Even though individual phones are equipped with sophisticated sensors, from GPS to WiFi, Bluetooth to barometer, the capabilities of the hardware come second to 911’s ability to use them. The sad result: Uber can often send a car to you faster than 911 can send an ambulance.

911’s ability to figure out where you are is — quite literally — all over the map. Depending on where you are in the country, you could have as high as a 95% chance — or as low as a 10% chance — of your dispatcher being able to get a clear read on your location. That is, of course, if you’re connected to the right people in the first place: in some areas, your call may get shipped to the next county.

How did this happen?

Mobile 911 is currently in the middle of a clash between, essentially, those who want to save money and those who want to save people. Whenever the FCC and other regulatory agencies try to force the hands of carriers to invest in leveraging smartphones’ technology, the carriers drag their feet — to deadly results. While some areas are making major improvements, others lag far behind. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 lives per year are lost to the gap.

Ironically enough, Silicon Valley — cradle of new technology — is among the worst performers. According to data published in 2013, only 10–37% of mobile 911 calls placed in Silicon Valley carry precise location information.

In Oakland, California, home of Patronus HQ, matters are even worse. Instead of 911, the Oakland Police website instructs you to dial its own 10-digit emergency line if you’re calling from a mobile phone. City officials advise the same. Why? If you call 911 from city center, you’ll get routed to California Highway Patrol in Vallejo — 40 minutes away — and have to be transferred. By the time you get to someone in a position to help you, you’d better be ready to tell them exactly where you are.

How can Patronus help?

The Patronus network is expanding to the City of Oakland. This means that instead of dialing a separate number or getting routed to Highway Patrol, you can tap the Request Help button on the Patronus app and we’ll send the call to the right place. From anywhere in Oakland, that call will go directly to Oakland PD. We’ll also give the dispatcher your location and contact info, accessible via touch tone, and display that address over your screen so you have the information at hand when asked where your emergency is located.

Since Patronus routes calls automatically based on your location, you can rely on our service anywhere in North America, whether your call goes directly to 911 or to a dispatcher within our network. We route calls to over 300 college and corporate campuses, ski resorts, and other public and private responders nationwide.

An in-network dispatcher who answers a Patronus call can access the caller’s location by address or landmark, GPS coordinates, and contact information, even if the caller can’t speak or has to hang up. We successfully route calls every day, from our network of campuses to cities and highways across the continent.

How does a Patronus in-network call work?

Like this:

What happens if I make a call outside the network?

That depends on where you’re calling from.

To cover your home bases, you can create virtual landlines with Patronus Places. From up to 20 custom saved addresses, like your home or work address — even a temporary place, like a hotel room — we can automatically deliver your address to the right 911 dispatcher, the way a registered landline would.

Calling from outside our network or your saved Patronus Places? We’ll route you directly to 911 and display your location over the dialer. That way, you can read off your address to the dispatcher when asked for the location of your emergency.

When will Patronus begin routing calls to Oakland PD?

BlueLight calls in Oakland are currently routed directly to OPD, along with precise location.

Where can I get Patronus?

You can download Patronus for iPhone from the App Store, or for Android from the Google Play Store, and begin a free trial.

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