Over the last couple of years, Ecuador has significantly advanced security measures to prevent and to better respond to crimes and other emergency situations.
As of October 2013, Ecuador has operated a nationwide 911 emergency call and response system, referred to as SIS-ECU 911.
As in the US and elsewhere, all 911 calls are free. There are eight call centers throughout Ecuador, representing different regions of the country, with the closest to us in the nearby city of Portoviejo (40 minutes from San Clemente).
The ECU 911 service integrates a host of institutions including the national police, the armed forces, local fire departments, the National Transit System, Ministry of Health, Ecuador’s institute for social security, the Secretary of Risk Management, and the Red Cross as well as other local organizations.
An integral component of the ECU 911 system is the “Transporte Seguro” (“Safe Transit”) program. This program was created in coordination with the National Transit System to reduce the number of road-related emergencies through monitoring and control of commercial transportation services. Part of this program was to install “Kits de Seguridad” (Security Kits) in all public buses and registered taxis in major cities across Ecuador.
Each of these security kits contains two video recording and infrared surveillance cameras and a panic button equipped with a GPS tracking device that immediately notifies 911 responders with the exact location of the vehicle. The system has a battery pack as a back up source of power. Buses are also equipped with sensors to remotely open and close the doors.
So far, over 17,000 buses and 38,000 taxis have had security kits installed throughout Ecuador.
Another innovative component of the ECU 911 system is a free smartphone app to quickly report emergencies utilizing a smartphone’s geo-referencing capabilities. The app is called ECU 911 and is available for iPhones, Androids and Blackberries.
I discovered this app when doing research for this post and just installed it on Tom’s and my phone. It can be programmed in English or Spanish. You do not have to be an Ecuadorian resident or citizen to use it so I would highly recommend visitors to set it up in advance of their trip. To set it up, I had to input my name, passport or Ecuador cedula number, cell number, emergency contact name and number, select my blood type from a pull-down menu, and list any physical disabilities or allergies. This app is an excellent option for residents and visitors who are not fluent in Spanish.
And another interesting security advancement I recently learned about was the programming of a panic button on any kind of cell phone. To do this, you take your phone into the nearest police station where they register your phone and your specific home address (well, as specific as possible, anyways). In the event of an emergency at or near where you live, you press a single digit on your phone and it immediately notifies the local police. The cost is a mere $0.05. A recent newspaper article reported an average response time of 3 minutes in Quito! So, in a small town like San Clemente, we should expect a rapid response time as well.
Like in so many other sectors of Ecuador, technological advances are being made rapidly. As Tom was saying today, some of these changes are taking place so quickly we don’t even find out about them until a few months after the fact! It truly has been fascinating to watch the development that’s taken place inEcuador since we first came in 2006 and we look forward to all that is surely still to come.