Devices designed to offer personal protection

Personal safety can be wearable, fashionable

By Aaron Wische - Senior Executive Producer, Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - From high-tech jewelry to low-tech alarms, a growing number of devices are designed to offer personal protection, particularly for people on the go.

Whether walking to a car in the parking lot or hitting the running trails, no one is immune from random violence, a concern for a new mother, Joanne Rodriguez.

"If something happened, I guess I would hope my mommy instincts would come in," she said.

Elizabeth Gordon tries to work out with friends and stay alert.

"We live in a day and age where you never know," she said.

Now, personal safety is both wearable and fashionable. A new company called Cuff offers a line of jewelry that can send out a distress signal.

The key is an electronic module that snaps inside the various bracelets or pendants that look nothing like a safety gizmo.

The chip pairs with the user's smartphone by Bluetooth. Squeezing it sends an alert to a circle of friends, advising them of an emergency and providing a map pinpointing the location.

It also can provide live audio from the location. The recipient can contact the person using the alarm and call 911. The jewelry costs $60 and up.

Another wearable is the $20 Little Viper wristband that puts pepper spray in reach. Using the other hand to squeeze the small canister on the band dispenses pepper spray for a distance of about 3 feet.

"There are lots of options, and all of them have plusses and minuses as protection," said crime specialist and former police officer Eddie Gonzalez.

With any product such as mace or pepper spray, Gonzales said consumers should be certain how to use them. Pepper spray can cross-contaminate, and the sprayer could end up in distress as well.

"You want to create distance," he said. "That's what is going to save you, to get away from this person."

A $22 Runt Stun Gun is compact. The product claims it can disable an attacker.

"The idea behind it is good," Gonzalez said. "But the negative part is you'll have to get pretty close to your attacker, point blank. You're going to have to make body contact with him."

Another of the many personal protection gadgets available is a mini alarm. When someone pulls the pin on the $16 key fob from Vigilant, a 130-decibel siren sounds.

"Anything that can make noise to attract attention would help," Gonzalez said.

With any device, Gonzalez advises always keeping it in the same place.

"When a situation happens, and you're fighting and trying to get away and panicking and trying to get way, reaching all over, you want to make sure it's always in the same spot," he said.

When it comes to self or protection, Gonzalez said the first line of defense is to avoid putting yourself in a potentially dangerous environment.

"Be aware of your surroundings, that's the first thing," he said. "Pay attention to your feelings. We can't pick our battlefields, but we can be prepared when something happens."

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