“Beacon: SMS-based emergency medical dispatching for resource-limited settings ("911 where there is none")

Beacon is a text message-based emergency dispatching platform designed specifically for communities where advanced "911" dispatching technologies are inappropriate or unaffordable. Beacon works by relaying requests for emergency assistance from the scene of an emergency via text message to nearby trained community responders, and then provides end-to-end resource coordination in order to ensure patients are located quickly, stabilized, and transported to appropriate facilities.

At a Glance

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How Can You Help?

  • Advisement from local innovation groups
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  • Share your knowledge of the market
  • Provide backend coding/programming expertise

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About This Innovation

Innovation Stats

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Provide a status update for your Innovation.

At the beginning of 2017 we were introduced to a group in Puerto Plata called "Rescate Ambar", comprised of 45 volunteers with a handful of ambulances, active operations, and very poor communications. In less than 30 minutes, we taught them how to use our software. In mid-February they launched and have responded just under 100 incidents in the first 30 days, which you can in this map.

If you're organization or service has trained health care workers, adequate tansportation, and solid management, we can get you up and running in less than 30 minutes. 

How does your innovation work?

Included here is a generic workflow of how Beacon works, with a more detailed explanation of signficant milestones in the process below.


A dispatcher receives a call from a witness to an emergency incident, collects their information and sends it as a text message alert to all available responders.


After receiving replies from available resources, Beacon determines the nearest and most appropriate vehicles and personnel according to the dispatchers criteria, and instructs those responders to proceed to the incident location.


Once the responders have located the patient(s), they inform Beacon that they are on-scene.


The first responder to confirm arrival on-scene is marked as “Incident Commander’ and is given the option to request additional resources if needed before providing care.


When transport has been confirmed, the responder indicates to Beacon which facility they’ll be going to, with how many patients, and what their expected arrival will be.


While the patient is being transferred to the appropriate facility and advanced notification message is sent to the receiving hospital, including additional options for online medical direction.

What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

If existing infrastructure is available -- i.e., trained community healthworkers, sufficient vehicles for response and transport, and strong management -- we can drastically improve your communications in less than 30 minutes.

Incident Maps and Data:
Dominican Republic: trekmedics.org/programs/dr/
Tanzania: trekmedics.org/programs/tanzania/

Additional Evidence Documentation

Do you have current users or testers?

  • Active use:
    • Civil society partners in Tanzania and D.R. (fire departments, police departments, Red Cross, civil defense et al);
  • Testing / Planned programs:
    • Maternal child health NGOs and providers in Arusha, Tanzania
    • Emergency physicians and obstetricians focused on inter-facility referral systems for high-risk patients in Dar Es Salaam
    • Rural EMS agencies in the U.S.
    • NGOs focused on community and youth development programs and/or road safety.

What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

There are three way we can expand the use of Beacon:

  1. Expand our existing programs
  2. Attract new partners to our platform through our website
  3. Seek out turn-key ready partners for “over-the-top” implementation

Next Steps

By end of 2017, our organization’s goals are the following:

  • Provide 24-7 coverage to 1 million people through Beacon platform
  • Launch 3-5 new programs in different locations
  • Develop web portal and improve internet messaging

Related Resources

  • Background: Beacon is a test message-based emergency medical dispatching software designed by Trek Medics International specifically for communities where advanced “911” dispatching technologies are inappropriate or unaffordable. Trek Medics makes Beacon available free-of-charge to eligible communities and organizations through a collaborative application process with potential partners.

    Purpose: The Beacon Compatibility Test is used to evaluate Beacon’s compatibility in specific geographic locations and is required to partner with Trek Medics.

    Objective: Successfully completing the compatibility test in 20-30 minutes will give us a clear understanding of the local infrastructure capacity, resource demands and activity costs needed to implement and launch a 6-month pilot program using our Beacon software.

    Methods: The compatibility test consist of two parts: Part 1 - Beacon Website Administration
    Part 2 - Beacon Dispatching

    Both tests should take 20-30 minutes to complete for first-time users, though subsequent attempts shouldn’t take more than a few minutes if the instructions have been followed correctly and all user error has been eliminated. 

  • There are lots of ideas about how mobile communications can be used to improve emergency response. This brief primer walks through the challenges faced when trying to scale beyond one patient at a time.