floods and other calamities fuel this app’s popularity
the morning a fire forced the evacuation of her daughter’s
school, Ruth Kobayashi found out about it when her
smartphone bleated out the distinctive tone she knows
she can’t ignore: the Orange County high school’s
app-based emergency communications system.
app, created by Newport Beach, Calif., start-up Titan
HST, sent her a series of reassuring messages. The fire
was small. It was quickly extinguished. The evacuation
was precautionary. All of the students were safe.
was great because kids don’t always have accurate
information in an emergency," Kobayashi said.
"If I was just relying on my daughter to send me a
text saying, ‘There’s a fire. They’re making us
evacuate,’ you can imagine me thinking that the whole
school’s burning down. I didn’t have to go through
its release in 2016, Titan HST’s emergency
communication system has been embraced by businesses,
educators and the medical profession. One reason,
customers say, is the system’s reliability.
Americans are hungry for ways to feel safe and well
informed. And little wonder, considering:
2016 and 2017, the FBI reported 50 active shooter
incidents that left more people dead and wounded than in
any previous two-year period.
natural disasters caused a record $306.2 billion in
damage in 2017, shattering the inflation-adjusted mark
of $214.8 billion that had stood since 2005, according
to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
American Psychological Association’s most recent
Stress in America Survey showed fears over personal
safety and terrorism beginning to rival more typical
worries about money, work and the economy. The
percentage of people citing personal safety as a
significant source of stress climbed to 34 percent in
2017, the highest since the question was first asked in
of business owners are relying on advanced technologies
such as apps, drones, wearable devices and building
sensors to support workplace safety, according to
Nationwide Insurance’s fourth annual business owner
survey, conducted in June. This use of such technology
has "become a part of the business ecosystem,"
Nationwide Vice President Tony Fenton said.
Merjanian, chief executive of Titan HST, has been riding
that wave since founding the company in 2013. In 2016,
his company closed seed funding and began signing up
has been booming. Most recently, Merjanian said, Titan
HST has signed a contract with the Cal State University
system, beginning with the chancellor’s office. In
April, the company signed a contract valued at $300
million with New York-based Titan Global, an unrelated
wasn’t the likeliest of outcomes for a UC San Diego
graduate who majored in sociology, earned his law degree
from University of San Diego law school and then founded
a law practice. He began to wonder how people, rather
than suing after an injury, could avoid mishaps in the
date from apps, you order food from apps,"
Merjanian said. "You do everything from apps,
right? So why can’t you get help from an app?"
called his company Titan Health & Security
Technologies Inc. but he shortened it to Titan HST for
marketing and branding.
saved our first life within 20 minutes of public
deployment," Merjanian said, recalling how a
teacher returned to a science classroom and found a
student trying to drink bleach.
has exploded. Merjanian said the system was used 62
million times in 2017, up from 16 million in 2016. The
private company doesn’t reveal revenue.
app, designed for schools, businesses and government
agencies, allows users to transmit emergency alerts by
picking from a menu of emergency icons on a smartphone
or Apple Watch. The system also is accessible through
text message, email, the web and social media feeds
including Facebook and Twitter. It’s available in
first core function is the SOS. So you can select any
kind of emergency you have," Merjanian said.
though everyone is worried about active shooters, 40
percent of the use of the system is for medical
emergencies. So we’re talking about everything from
diabetic shock to food allergies," he said. "A
college sorority has used this to alert people at
parties if they fear the drinks are being spiked."
HST has created an app designed to keep people connected
and well informed during natural disasters like
wildfires, hurricanes and floods. It also does the same
for man made incidents, such as active shooter
situations. The app is being used by school districts,
businesses, and medical facilities.
app can access a phone’s camera to send visual alerts.
people are hiding from a shooter, you can see where they’re
hiding and whether they’re injured or not,"
Merjanian said. The app shows the location of people who
are safe and those who are not, and lists those who have
not checked in to report their status.
technology is still being refined, Merjanian said. The
company is adding "mesh networking" to allow a
phone to link to nearby phones if cellular towers are
down and Wi-Fi isn’t accessible.
recently partnered with Newport Beach-based Exoio to
make and market small sensors with a communication range
of 30 feet to 1,000 feet to help pinpoint app users’
locations during emergencies. Exoio is the latest
technology company started by Shawn Dougherty,
co-founder and former chief operating officer of Mophie,
the Tustin-based maker of phone charging accessories.
app’s cost varies by sector, volume and use type,
Merjanian said. For schools, the cost starts at $2 a
student per year paid by the institution, not parents.
Private-sector clients usually pay between $2 and $10
per user per month.
management consultant Bill Cunningham has made the Titan
HST app part of preparedness plans and training he
devises for businesses, government agencies and other
chief executive of Irvine-based Building Emergency
Response Teams, got to try the app out sooner than
expected in early September with some clients on the
Caribbean island of Anguilla, including a hotel, as they
braced for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma’s 185-mph
winds. Cunningham had created a preparedness plan but
hadn’t had time for a trial run.
Titan HST app "helped keep track of everyone to
make sure they were safe," Cunningham said.
"It really worked."
23,000-student Newport-Mesa Unified School District has
rolled out the app systemwide. It has already gotten
quick medical attention for a teacher who had an
emergency during a class. It’s also enabled immediate
lockdowns when strangers were on campus.
has proved to be a fantastic emergency broadcast and
communications platform for our schools, our students,
our families and our staff," said Phil D’Agostino,
director of student and community services for
Marcus, campus business manager at West Hills’ De
Toledo High School, said the school uses the Titan HST
app but hasn’t had a real emergency yet, just lots of
practice sessions for when the real thing happens.
said the app has been useful in non-emergencies,
alerting parents that students returning from games or
field trips will be arriving late because of heavy
technology is designed to resist pranks, employing such
things as geo-fencing to prevent someone from declaring
a school emergency when they are actually far away from
are good control features," Marcus said. "That’s
really important because we didn’t want just anyone
sending a message out to our entire school