In late May of this year, I assisted a local crisis center in deploying a solution we've now dubbed "FamilyFIRST". FamilyFIRST is an SMS based system that allows victims of domestic violence to reach out to police, crisis counselors, and to document abuse incidents all via simple SMS messaging.
When the project first began, neither I nor the agency involved were sure how it would be received or if it would even be used. Educating victims to think proactively in crisis situation is a difficult thing. Their first reaction is to simply hide or get out of the situation if possible. This often means running without a purse or mobile phone.
So the agency decided to tackle the deployment in two phases: technical and marketing. Technical, thanks to FrontlineSMS was incredibly easy. By integrating the software along with a bit of custom software written by me, I was able to get a working system up and running bug free in less than a week. It includes message routing and archival, and is structured in such a way that the evidence stored inside of it has been deemed acceptable by the court.
Then, came the marketing side. Obviously, the agency didn't have a lot of money so doing a huge PR blitz was out of the question. So they went about spreading word about the system in local PSA's, victims groups, in seminars, and through area counselors working with the abused population. Because this was all very grass roots, they were able to accomplish this with a near zero budget and we were all totally shocked by the response it received.
In the last two and a half months, FamilyFiRST has processed over 4,000 messages from victims of violence, not only in our local area, but around the state of Oklahoma. Evidence stored in the system has been used to help successfully prosecute 9 offenders and has resulted in combined sentences of over 110 years being handed down in those cases.
All in all, the system is a success and it couldn't have happened without FrontlineSMS. Even though I'm a software engineer by trade, I wouldn't have had the time or knowledge to build such a robust system from scratch and FrontlineSMS reduced 'building the system' to writing a few pieces of tie-in software and setting up a database.
Our future goal for the system is to work with other agencies in deploying in in health care (our core competency), domestic violence, and education. Thanks to this experience with FrontlineSMS, I'm confident that a robust system can be built quickly, easily, and VERY affordably (under $700 USD).
Thank you Ken and all the developers of FrontlineSMS. You're helping to change the world, one download at a time.