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Can a mobile phone keep you safe on the go?

Jen Weigel

Lessons for life

January 26, 2012

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We've gathered some more stories about people who saw a need or faced a challenge, and created a solution for our "Problem? No Problem!" series. Here are their stories.

Jenniffer Weigel, Tribune Newspapers

(Got your own story? Send it to us at TribU@Tribune.com with the subject line "No Problem!" and it could be added to the list!)

Tom Rissman wants to keep you safe

You're walking alone late at night, and you sense someone is following you. Is it possible to get protection from your cell phone without calling the police?

"I have four daughters, so developing something that creates a layer of safety for those who feel vulnerable was important to me," said Tom Rissman, CEO of PeopleGuard LLC and one of the developers of the StreetSafe app. "I wanted to create a sort of personal mobile security system, and that's when we thought up StreetSafe."

So why use StreetSafe instead of just calling 911?

"People think 911 can instantly track where a cell phone is, and that's not the case," he said. "It can take up to six minutes for the police to track a phone because they need to get permission (to do so). If someone is in our system, we have them on GPS and don't need to get permission to track it, so it's instant."

Rissman said the app offers two options — green and red. If you slide the green option, you're immediately connected to a call center staffed by trained safety advisors and off-duty police officers.

If you slide the red button, StreetSafe silently contacts your local 911 center with your location, tracks your every move through GPS and relays your position to the authorities, and transmits your identification information to the authorities – age, physical description, etc.

"If you're in danger, keep your finger next to the red alarm and tuck the phone into your pocket," Rissman said.

Rissman said StreetSafe's non-emergency option — the green button -- sets them apart, because it allows the user to talk to experts who can offer safety tips before things get dangerous.

"We call this the 'walk with me' service," he said. "Our staff is trained to help with any circumstance. It makes people feel better to know it's there, with or without a crisis."

Concerned about your privacy? Rissman says the app is not a tracking device others can use against you. "Our information is kept solely to us and shared with the police and only the police" in case of emergency, he said.

"We thought this would be most popular with college students, but young professional women seem to be using it most," he said. .

Cost for the app varies from $19.99 a month to $149.99 a year and includes the security service. Find out more at StreetSafe.com.

Adie Horowitz says 'no dice' to lice

As a mother of four, Adie Horowitz had plenty of visits to her family pediatrician's office. But when her kids came down with head lice, she was concerned about the products she was told to use on her children.

"They gave me a shampoo that was basically a pesticide, so you're poisoning the bugs, but you're also putting these chemicals on your child," said Horowitz, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

After searching for non-toxic ways to get rid of head lice, Adie was finally frustrated by the lack of options.

"I called around and started doing research, and nobody could help me," she said. "I ended up speaking to a woman in Germany who was the head of her PTA and she said, 'We use baking soda and this fabulous comb.' So I devised my own method, created a comb and in an hour I had my kids clean. It was so great."

As word got out that Horowitz found a way to beat the bugs without the chemicals, she had trouble keeping up with the requests.

"This woman called me and I told her I couldn't clean every head, and she said, 'But I'll pay you!' And that's when a light bulb went off," Horowitz said.

Now natural lice products and services have become Horowitz's full-time job. She has stores on the East Coast, and she's also helping families all over the globe through her website, http://www.licenders.com.

"We're expanding all the time," said Horowitz. "I just talked to some people from France. … It feels good to know you're giving people relief without pouring chemicals all over your body."

Jennifer Skanron is suiting up

Being pregnant means going through various items of maternity clothes as your body shifts and grows. This can be frustrating and costly. But imagine being pregnant and needing to wear a suit to work.

"I worked … for 16 years and I was so frustrated with the lack of quality suits for pregnant women and how they fit," said Jennifer Skanron, founder of suitsyourbelly.com. "I thought there had to be a better way to make pants that can take you from the start of your pregnancy, all the way to what is now called 'the fourth trimester' — that transition time post-delivery when you're still carrying some of the baby weight."

So Skanron started creating prototypes for maternity pants and suits, all while working full-time and being a wife and new mom.

"What I came up with was (a suit with) this zip-in panel, which is a very soft, three-inch elastic waistband. So when your bump gets big, you add this panel. Then you take it out when you've had your baby."

Skanron launched suitsyourbelly.com in October of 2011 and said the feedback has been positive.

"The fabric of maternity suits can often be very itchy and not flexible, so it was really important for me to design something that moms wanted to put on," she said. "And the fact that you can remove the panel depending on how much support you need, it's nice to have that option."

Skanron's suits start at $199 for spring and summer styles and $250 for fall and winter attire. Her hope is to expand to casual clothing items as the business expands.

"I had an order from a trial attorney in Indiana and she had nowhere to buy good suits and now she says she feels good getting dressed in the morning. Pregnant women are tired. The last thing they want to do is wander the aisles looking for clothes."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel