Innovations in Global Health: Beacon Emergency Dispatching for Community First Responders

Trek Medics International is a non-governmental organization dedicated to improving emergency medical systems in communities with unreliable access to emergency care and transport through innovative mobile phone solutions. Trek Medics’ approach is based on the principle that emergency medical services (EMS) utilized in the wealthiest nations aren’t easily implemented in low- and middle-income countries – primarily owing to under-developed infrastructure and a lack of public financing for conventional technologies.

To overcome these access challenges, Trek Medics has developed Beacon, a text message-based emergency dispatching platform designed for communities who don’t need or can’t afford the advanced “911” emergency technologies commonly employed in high-income countries. Beacon enables communities to leverage their own resources in order to design, launch, manage and sustain emergency response networks on any phone, with or without internet connection, and anywhere there is a mobile phone signal.

Beacon operates by crowd-sourcing emergency response among a decentralized network of trained and layperson first responders spread across the community. The process occurs in two steps:

  • When an emergency event is reported to a local first response agency (e.g., a fire department, clinic, hospital etc.), the location of the incident is sent out through Beacon as a text message alert to all the responders in the community, asking them to help.
  • As the responders reply to the alert and confirm their availability, Beacon determines which responders are nearest and most appropriate, and then coordinates their activities from arrival on-scene all the way to the patient’s handover to a healthcare facility.

Trek Medics is currently working with local first responders in communities in the Dominican Republic and Tanzania. Beacon is being used in these communities to dispatch emergency incidents on a 24-7 basis from a population of over 500,000 for road traffic injuries, complicated childbirths and acute disease conditions. Since launching in 2014, these responders have been dispatched to nearly 1,500 emergency incidents through Beacon, resulting in over 1,000 patient transports to 15 local and regional health care facilities.

In November, Trek Medics will be releasing the Beacon mobile app as a companion version for responders with smartphones and internet connectivity, opening up new functionality that will improve the precision of the platform’s location-based dispatching and data compilation.


This article is not an endorsement by GBCHealth or any members of its Board of Directors. GBCHealth does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services.

Alyssa GovindanInnovations in Global Health: Beacon Emergency Dispatching for Community First Responders