Mobile Personal Security System to be Featured on Shark Tank

Photo via Lori Greiner, @lorigreinershark

Photo via Lori Greiner, @lorigreinershark

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2017

CHICAGO ILLINOIS – Local personal security startup Guard Llama will be featured on ABC’s Shark Tank on Friday, April 14th. Guard Llama is a mobile personal security system that includes a keychain remote and app. The remote connects via Bluetooth to an application on your smartphone (iPhone & Android). When you click the button twice, the remote sends a signal to the app on your phone. The app then collects your GPS location info and sends that and your personal profile (including your photo and medical history) to the Guard Llama dispatch center.

Guard Llama co-founders Adam Havey and Joe Parisi started the company after a tragic event occurred on their college campus. Both co-founders have spent the last several years developing the Guard Llama product, dedicating their full-time schedule to ensure it’s success. Havey and Parisi launched Guard Llama together in January 2015

“Filming Shark Tank was an amazing, yet very humbling experience,” Parisi said. “The amount of exposure the show gives you is incredible and we can’t wait to continue making the world a safer place.”

“We did a lot of preparation before the show,” said Havey. “But we could have never prepared for the call telling us we’d actually be pitching the sharks on TV.” 

“This has been such an amazing experience for us,” said Parisi. “We are so grateful to all of the friends of Guard Llama who have supported us, and helped us get this far.”

Guard Llama provides three different purchase options: standalone app for $2.95 per month, keychain remote and app for $9.95 per month, and family plans starting at $29.95 per month.

The Guard Llama episode of Shark Tank airs Friday, April 14th at 9PM Eastern/Pacific, 8PM Central on ABC. 

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CONTACT: info@guardllama.com, 1-855-423-0066

Real Estate Agent Safety: What Sets Guard Llama Apart?

One of the most challenging things for people researching mobile security devices is deciding which companies provide real solutions to the problem of personal safety. Unfortunately, most of the applications and devices available to consumers only offer the illusion of security, rather than the real, tangible, testable service that Guard Llama provides. The truth is, there is not a single service, device, or application on the market that provides all of the aspects of protection like Guard Llama. Here’s a rundown of what Guard Llama does that the others do not.
 

LIFELINE RESPONSE AND EMERGENSEE

These are two applications that connect you to a dispatch center in the same way that Guard Llama does. The major difference is that they are just that - applications. In order for you to use and access their service, you are required to open and run the application from your phone. Simply, this is just not realistic in the case of a real emergency. Guard Llama was created in the aftermath of events in which people were not able to use their phones to send for help. If somebody is physically threatening your safety, you will likely not have the ability get to your phone, unlock it, search through your applications, and activate your emergency service app. What these applications seem to neglect is the reality that in an emergency, you will be panicking and potentially physically compromised. Guard Llama was designed to be used without touching your phone at all. In fact, our patented, proprietary technology is the first in the world to allow a Bluetooth device to communicate with a phone in lock mode. Your Guard Llama remote allows you to send for the help you need by simply pressing a button, because in a real emergency, this may be all you have the opportunity to do.
 

WEARSAFE

This service uses a small Bluetooth remote to trigger their emergency alert application. On the surface, this seems much like the service that Guard Llama offers. However, this is where the similarities end. The Wearsafe application is only equipped to alert your selected network of friends and family. They do not offer access to dispatch police services, instead putting this responsibility on those in the user’s contact network. Basically, your friends and family are put in the situation of dialing 9-1-1 for you. When you trigger your Guard Llama remote, you can be confident knowing that we are sending the police. Our subscribers are monitored 24/7 by our UL Listed, federally certified dispatch center. When you push the button, a trained emergency responder immediately dispatches the closest police to your exact GPS location. No matter how much we love our friends and family, this is something that they just can’t do.
 

REAL AGENT GUARD

This is a security service specifically marketed for realtors to use during showings and open houses. Like Wearsafe, this is a user-alert-only application, meaning it does not alert the police. However, it also requires a volunteer to monitor users at all times, meaning that if there is no monitor volunteer online from a brokerage, no distress signals will be seen. All users must first log in to the service to activate it as well. Agents then set timers that are triggered to send alarms if they are not deactivated by a set time. A user can also send an immediate alert through a panic button. But again, this alert is not sent to a professional dispatch center and instead the responsibility of finding and sending for help is left to an agent’s co-workers.


It is our belief that more than any other service, Guard Llama knows the very real dangers that realtors are exposed to and in turn provides very real security.

This is why we have been partners with the National Association of Realtors REach Program for nearly two years and are the mobile security solution that they endorse and recommend. Wireless activation, 24/7 monitoring, real-time GPS information. Guard Llama has it. The others just don’t.

 

10 Ways to Stay Safe During In-Home Visits

Work-related violence against in-home health professionals is an often unspoken, but major issue. Not many new workers realize when they enter the profession that they may be targets of assaults. This should really not be a surprise, however, because these workers usually become involved with clients during periods of crisis and often interact with clients when they are emotionally labile. Violence in the field often includes physical assault, verbal assault, harassment and the threat of assault. Some assaults may be minor, but others can turn deadly.

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported healthcare and social assistance workers were the victims of more than 11,370 assaults, which is a more than 13% increase over the number of assaults in 2009. The numbers have continued to increase since then, with no end in sight.

Below, we’ve provided some safety tips that all in-home health professionals can use to help ensure safer home visits.

Always let someone know where you’re going. Let someone in your office or personal life know where and when you are meeting a client. Make sure to let that person know when you expect to get to the location and when you expect to return.

Review intake forms for possible concerns of violence. There will often be notes that either explicitly say, or inherently imply, a risk of violence. Pay attention and prepare yourself accordingly.

Mentally rehearse the visit and what you need to accomplish. Before heading into a visit, rehearse what the visit will go over and your end goals. Having a purpose and knowing what needs to be done will help you get through appointments more effectively and efficiently.

Don’t wear excessive jewelry and dress appropriately. Don’t give potential attackers more of a reason victimize you. Keep your nice jewelry at home, and dress modestly and professionally.

Take your ID with you, but do not wear your ID card around your neck. Always make sure you’re identifiable. You always want to be able to identify yourself to your client, and also in case you need to be identified in an emergency.

Be aware of the exits from the home. Always know the ways to get out of a house in the event of an emergency. If possible, keep yourself between the client and the door to make sure you don’t get trapped.

Use non-threatening body language and remain calm and polite. You are less likely to become a victim of an attack if you show that you are there to help and not hurt.

Respect the client’s home and their emotions. Nobody wants to feel disrespected, especially within his or her own home. Take extra precautions make sure you are showing clients the utmost respect.

Carry a cell phone with you. It’s important to ensure you are able to contact your supervisor or the police in case of an emergency. Make sure you have your phone, and that is charged, at all times.

Leave if you feel threatened or if you notice unlawful or peculiar behavior. Don’t stay in a situation if you feel unsafe. Always report your concerns to your supervisor, or to the police if necessary.

In addition to these helpful safety tips, you can add peace of mind and an extra layer of safety by protecting yourself with Guard Llama’s smart personal security system. Guard Llama was built to protect anyone in any situation, but when it comes to in-home professionals, our system's benefits highly outweigh the low monthly cost. 

Visit our website and order your system today.  

YWCA and Guard Llama: A Partnership Built for Success

At Guard Llama, we feel it is our responsibility to create and maintain relationships with organizations that align with our core principles of advocating safety and spreading awareness of issues involving the prevention of violence. Not surprisingly, one of our longest and most important of these relationships is with the Metropolitan Chicago YWCA. When the Guard Llama system was still in development, it was volunteers from the YWCA that helped us beta test the original devices. This process provided us with the invaluable feedback we needed to create the best possible version of the Guard Llama remote that is hanging from your keychain or purse or briefcase right now. And when we need insight into what we can do be doing better to understand or positively impact the issues facing our community, we turn to the leadership of the YWCA.

With that in mind, we wanted to highlight the work being done by the YWCA right in our hometown of Chicago. Many are not aware of the scope of what The Y does, and we wanted to use our platform to highlight the many resources they provide and the indispensable work that they do. Because unfortunately, the prevention of violence involves a lot more than pressing a button. It involves education, resources, counseling, and a continuing commitment to recognize the new ways violence manifests itself in people’s lives, and especially the lives of women.

We sat down with Manager of Education and Outreach Alexandra Kumin and Director of Education and Training Nabilah Talib at the Guard Llama offices in the West Loop to get a better idea of how all of this gets done.
 

GL: I’ll ask first, Alex and then Nabilah - how long have you been with the YWCA, and what brought you there?

Alex: I’ve been there for 6 ½ years, and I started actually as an educator and later became a coordinator. What brought me there initially was being able to go out and interact with kids, teach kids about violence prevention and safety. And what’s been really cool is seeing the program grow, and seeing us - along with state laws and prevention becoming a little more of the forefront - our program growing with that, and really moving into prevention, rather than just sort of talking about awareness.

Nabilah: I’ve been with the company for 11 years, I also started as an educator. I actually didn’t know that it was sexual violence work because that’s not how they promoted it, which was interesting. We do a better job now of actually saying what we do.

GL: How did they promote it originally?

Nabilah: Just like an educator - you did some health information in the classroom. You know now we’re talking about it being specifically sexual violence and support services, and providing information about how to prevent sexual violence, how to intervene, and what are the additional intervention services connected to the work - and how we’re a comprehensive service within the state. So we’re re-branding. If we talk about the Y generally, we help people. And we have a number of ways that we do that. And so that’s really tightening our brand for the Y.

GL: Which makes sense because I feel like the general perception of the YWCA is sort of antiquated - you’re there if people need help. But that’s a very small version of what you do. So what would be the markers of your re-branding?

Nabilah: We help people in their journey through life from surviving to thriving through our three empowerment priorities: freedom from violence, education and training, and economic sustainability. And a part of that is also their reciprocity: so when people receive the comprehensive services through the YWCA, they have the intrinsic value of the service and they’re compelled to give back - whether it’s their time, whether it’s fees, or connection, or networking.  

Alex: Or volunteering with us after having gone through one of our services, or it kind of comes back internally to us, or they spread it through their community too.

GL: How does one get involved to become a volunteer? What can you volunteer to do?

Alex: So specifically within sexual violence support services, you can volunteer with our 24-hour rape crisis hotline, or with our 24-hour advocacy services. We’re also tinkering with volunteers for the education program. That’s a little bit different because it depends on people’s availability. But we have had ed. volunteers in the past. But our two big ones - especially because they’re 24-hour programs - are advocacy and hotline. That’s kind of word of mouth through ed. programs or outreach opportunities, or partnerships like the one we have with [Guard Llama]. Health fairs, partnering with colleges, things like that. That’s how we let people know that hey we’re looking for volunteers. Because the need is certainly there. They’re 24 hours for a reason - this happens at all hours of the day.

Nabilah: We also have an ambassador council and a future leaders council. So we work at the level that people are at professionally and create a networking space, a communal space for them to have activities and events that work towards our cause of helping people.

I think on average once a week, we can have a call to a hospital. Because our service area is so big, we’re talking about DuPage County, Cook County, and South Suburban Cook. In terms of the hotline, we get calls - a minimum of 5-10 a day per volunteer. Not all of them are crisis situations—there are times when there are peaks, there are slow days, but I would give that as the average. And the thing is that we always need someone on call. So they’re always used, and then there’s general work to do in the time when they’re not actually engaging with a potential victim or person requesting information and services.

GL: I would be curious as to how you stay on top of changing information so well. Obviously, you guys are at the forefront of the best and newest information about these subjects - rape intervention, crisis services, education. You’ve said already that the job itself evolves and has changed a lot since you’ve been there. How does that work? How do you stay abreast of all the stuff that happens?

Nabilah: I think it’s two prongs - I think it’s with leadership opportunities within the state, and then it’s also making sure that we’re definitely connected and embedded in the communities that we serve. And so we make the connection and advocate on behalf of the people that need services, irrespective of socio-economic background. Alex chairs the prevention planning committee for the state, where we bring all of the state rape crisis centers together to talk about prevention initiatives and strategies and provide recommendations. We also have colleagues that will support the legislation that’s getting put forth and analyze it, and advocate directly to legislators to say “vote no,” or “vote yes,” and “here’s why - because this is the impact, and here’s the data behind it.” So I think that connection, but also knowing the stories, having the on-the-ground experiences, really feeds into how the systems need to operate when we see gaps. And our job is at this point really gap-filling at some times, and then also evolving and being cutting-edge for the work. Seeing not just what’s happening today, but where we actually need to be. I think Alex has done a really great job of pushing us forward in terms of shifting our language from being about intervention to being more about prevention, and believing that it’s possible.

Alex: Sexual Assault Awareness Month Campaign, which is in April, was “Prevention is Possible” - that was the theme. Each year has a theme, but prevention was the theme this year. So we’re really seeing a turning point in prevention and to add to what Nabilah was saying about how we sort of bridge the gap - we also know the communities we’ve been living in. The people who come to work in the ed. program and in the Y stay, and we know the communities that we’re working with. We know that we will have to go to a bilingual school, and we know we’re culturally competent in knowing that maybe this group is not going to be as comfortable talking about this subject. So how do we filter that through our experience and through what we know they need to know, and will want to know for keeping their communities safe? We’re really good at doing that. And again, because we get information from across the state of Illinois, we also know that the stuff that’s maybe gonna work in rural Illinois is gonna be a little different in the South Side of Chicago, where one of our major bases is.

GL: I wanted to just touch on why the YWCA decided to partner with Guard Llama, and what value you see in the relationship going either way.

Nabilah: I think we need to diversify the way we look at violence. And we need to diversify our approach. One of the things that we’re recognizing in the industry is that we’re very niche. Specifically going into diverse communities - but if we’re looking at a professional opportunity, it’s very specific. We’re looking at social workers, we’re not necessarily looking at corporate America. And what we recognize is that the sexual violence that occurs there, you all bring some corporatized experience and connection to the work. Real Estate agents weren’t on our radar. In terms of saying, “Well, we should provide some prevention services to you all, and just talk about issues of sexual violence or create a group that supports you.” Never thought about it. My mother for a moment was a real estate agent. Didn’t think about it in that context. The more you meet, the more diversified our partnerships are, the better we’re able to evolve. We’re large, but we also need to be efficient and nimble and so we look at how you all operate, what your tool is, what your device. It’s nimble, right? It’s mobile, it fits in my pocket. That’s important. We don’t want to come with this big book of “Why You Shouldn’t Get Raped.” That’s not the goal either. So really looking towards how we can uniquely evolve the work in a cutting-edge way, it was just on the mark.

GL: Can we talk a little further about the sort of switch you’re talking about in the cultural conversation? The switch from “Here are the things you need to do as a woman to protect yourself” to “We need to stop assaulting women.” It’s a difference of “We need to make sure women are guarded against rapists” vs. “We need to stop creating the opportunity for people to rape people.” When would you say that shift started to happen in the culture of what you guys do and in the conversation? Was there a specific time?

Nabilah: (joking) When we got there!

Alex: Erin’s Law.

Nabilah: Erin’s Law really made the shift, along with President Obama from the White House. A renewed call to action. When the President and the Vice President are saying, “You know what - people shouldn’t be raped, you should not rape people, rapists are responsible for rape” it’s real simple. Fixing it is the hard part, and we’re working on it. I think also shifting how we talk about rape. We are removing the focus on men being rapists and we’re focusing on people who rape. We are including men in the work. And so it’s really important to create a space and content and frame the information to make it accessible to anybody. Versus making it focused on “women are responsible for telling men not to rape. Women are responsible for educating, women are responsible for…” No. We are responsible. For ensuring that we’re holding ourselves and others accountable for being appropriate and having a culture of consent. Recognizing the importance of consent and coercion, and how easy it is to coerce somebody. And it doesn’t have to be about sex or the lack of consent.

Alex: Yeah, the community responsibility. And I think the national spotlight - for years, rape crisis centers have been like, “Look! Over here! It’s a problem,” and then finally we had someone put a spotlight on it and we’re like, “Okay! We’re ready to do this, we can do this.” Having more press about what prevention needs to be and more “It’s on us” campaigns.

GL: How does The Y try to keep this issue top of mind for people? National news and social media have a very short attention span, even for issues as big and terrible as the Orlando massacre. Zika, for example, is still a huge problem and is getting worse as we speak but has been largely forgotten. How does The Y ensure that people are thinking about issues of violence and rape and trying to make a change, and not letting it be brushed under with everything else?

Alex: Specifically for me in the programs with kids and adults that I do, it’s not scaring people. Orlando, Zika - that is scary. That’s stuff that we don’t want to talk about. Are there components of today’s presentation that are not so fun to talk about? [Note: before this interview, the Guard Llama staff went through a sexual violence awareness course with Alex and Nabilah] Absolutely. But we laughed, we were able to do something. We talked about things you can do later, and this was just a one-time session. When I have multiple sessions it’s more about “Why is this important to you?” Because this is your community that you live in, and you want it to be safe. But also letting people know that they can individually do things. I think people think it’s too much of a problem, and they can’t do anything about it. But it’s the job of rape crisis centers and big organizations who have big problems to break that down for people and say, “Ok, yeah, it’s a big problem. But you can volunteer with us, and you can do the hotline, and if you don’t want to do either of the things, you can write a check for us.” Giving people actual things that they can do that day, the next day, that week - that’s how at least I specifically try to get things accomplished.
 

To learn more about what the YWCA does in your community, visit YWCA.org.

To assist as a Rape Crisis Hotline volunteer, a Medical Advocate Volunteer, or an SVSS Outreach Volunteer in the Chicago Metropolitan area, follow THIS LINK.

If you or someone you know needs to contact the Chicago Metropolitan Area Rape Crisis Hotline, operators are available 24/7 at the following numbers:

Chicago Metropolitan Area: 888-293-2080

DuPage County: 630-971-3927

South Suburbs: 708-748-5672



The Concerning Rise of Real Estate Agent Attacks

Real estate agents are talented individuals who help people to buy and sell houses, and their experience and advice is often invaluable to the process of buying or selling a property. Sadly, the nature of the real estate business can put some agents at risk because it often requires them to be alone with complete strangers in isolated locations. There are always at least a few deaths due to homicide each year among real estate agents, but in the past years, statiticians have found that real estate homicides are rising sharply. If you are a real estate agent, it is important to understand why real estate agent attacks are increasing and learn about realtor safety.

 

Why are real estate agents attacked?

Experts on real estate safety agree that the reason so many real estate agents are attacked is because their job requires them to be alone with random members of the public. Unlike customer service jobs that typically include working with coworkers, many real estate agents work alone. They also make scheduled appointments to show homes and advertise when they will be having open houses, so it is easy for a potential attacker to ascertain a real estate agent's whereabouts.

 

What are some of the most recent attacks on real estate agents?

A look at a few of the most recent real estate agent attacks reveal some disturbing trends. Often, attacks are motivated by money, and each year, many real estate agents are robbed of their jewelry, money, and other valuables while attempting to show a home. It is actually somewhat rare for a realtor to be murdered by an unhinged stalker. Instead, most deaths are either a personal attack that took place while the agent was at work or an attempted robbery or hostage situation that ended in death.

Ashley Okland

Ashley Okland was a 27 year old real estate agent from Iowa who was killed while working alone at an open house in a community of townhomes. Workers outside of the townhouse heard a commotion, rushed into the townhouse, and found Okland lying on the ground and bleeding. She later succumbed to her injuries from two gunshot wounds at the hospital. So far, police have not been able to find her killer.

Janice Tisdale

Janice Tisdale had an appointment to meet Emilio Maldonado and his banker in a remote suburban community, and she immediately felt like something was wrong when Maldonado showed up alone. As she was bending down to lock the door, Maldonado hit her over the head and said that he would not let her leave until she got him $4,000 somehow. When Maldonado went towards his car to get paper for a ransom note, Tisdale was able to flee towards the road. She ran to a passing car full of teenagers, who kept her safe while subduing Maldonado, and managed to survive the attack. Her attacker is now in prison for 60 years.

Beverly Carter

According to her killer, 50 year old Beverly Carter was targeted because "she was a woman that worked alone." Carter was supposed to show a home to Arron Lewis, who claimed to be a potential buyer, but she was attacked by the man instead. At first, Lewis planned to hold Carter for ransom, but he then decided to kill her after she was bound with duct tape. Her body was eventually found buried in a shallow grave near the home she was trying to sell. Her killer was eventually found, and he is now in prison for life.

 

What makes you more likely to be attacked?

The one thing that almost all real estate agent attacks have in common is that the real estate agent met their client alone in an isolated, rural area. Unfortunately, in the real estate business, this is not always avoidable, but you may be able to bring along company, such as a home inspector or the seller of the house, to keep you from being alone with a client.

Many real estate agent attacks are crimes of opportunity, where the assailant notices that the real estate agent is wearing expensive jewelry or has a full pocketbook. Visible signs of wealth therefore make a person more likely to be attacked. Unfortunately, in the case of real estate homicides, women are more likely to be attacked than men because they are viewed as a weaker target that is less likely to fight back.

 

What can you do to be safe?

Experts on realtor safety emphasize that it is important to listen to your instincts. Real estate agents are trained to be polite and accommodating, so they often dismiss or ignore any signs that something is wrong. However, many real estate agents who were attacked mention that they ignored a client's unusual behavior prior to the attack. If you feel uncomfortable or think that something is wrong with a client, it is ok to leave quickly. Your subconscious may be warning you about a potential attack, and safety is always more important than making a sale or being nice to a client.

Real estate safety also relies on planning ahead and making yourself a less appealing target. Most people who are attacked are working alone and seem to be wealthy. Therefore, you should never wear expensive jewelry on the job because it implies that you might be a valuable hostage. Whenever possible, it is wise to have company instead of meeting a client alone. Most attacks occur in isolated homes, so working with a partner is particularly important if you are showing a home that is far away from any other location.

There are a few items you can carry to further ensure your safety. If it is legal in your area, it may be beneficial to carry a small handgun, pepper spray, or other sort of weapon with you. One of the most beneficial ways to stay safe is to carry a safety alert device that sends a distress call to the police as soon as you press a button. One of the best safety alert devices on the market is the Guard Llama. This version is particularly useful because it looks like any other key fob, blending in discreetly with your personal belongings.

If you are a real estate agent, being proactive about your safety is the best way to avoid an attack. Though the rising trend in real estate attacks is concerning, a Guard Llama device will help you to do your job while staying safe. Check out the Guard Llama website for more information about how the Guard Llama works.