Safety first: 35 years on from Suzy Lamplugh
It was the story that shocked a nation when, in 1986, estate agent Suzy Lamplugh headed off from her Fulham branch in broad daylight to accompany a viewing, never to be seen again. Despite the police following up new leads as recently as this year, her disappearance has never been solved.
For some agents, Suzy is never far from their mind. Thankfully, such incidents are incredibly rare and we now have technology on our side, which makes accompanying potential buyers and tenants safer than ever. That doesn’t mean measures can’t be improved and as a part of the wider property industry, and inextricably linked to property viewings, Viewber is constantly seeking ways to improve the viewing experience for all involved.
Agents can enter the details of ‘buddies’ into the app – usually colleagues but could be a close friend or partner – who they can alert if they’re going on a viewing they feel nervous about. If the viewing concludes successfully, the agent presses a button on the app to end the appointment and confirm that all has gone well. If the button is not pressed after a set time limit has expired, the listed buddies get an SMS alert, which prompts them to call the agent to check if they’re OK. Location is given using the latest WhatThreeWords tech...
The ViewBuddy app also features a silent alarm function, which can be activated discreetly during a viewing by entering the PIN backwards. This is an important feature during situations where the agent may not be able to make a call or if they need to send an alert very quickly.
Viewber is not alone in striving to improve safety standards for agents and all lone workers. Rapidly advancing technology and useful advice is freely available. Below are some of Viewber’s recommendations for anyone looking to improve their professional and personal safety:
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was founded by Suzy’s parents, Diana and Paul, and its work to raise workplace and personal safety standards continues. Anyone working alone should read the Trust’s Personal Safety At Work advice, and the website also carries a list of approved working alone devices.
The WhatThreeWords app allows agents to find and share their exact location with anyone, thanks to a unique 3m square address made up of a unique three-word combination, such as woodland-blue-lamp. The technology is so precise that an agent can pinpoint their location to a property’s particular room.
Google Find My Device for Android and Find My for Apple allows you to see the location of any opted-in device – even if the item is offline. Find My on Apple can also be used by agents with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to locate staff, as long as employees install the app and accept the sharing setting. Once set up, agents can see a snapshot of where all their colleagues are at any given time.
AirTags from Apple can be attached to non-electrical items, such as a set of keys, so they can be tracked and located on a map as part of the Find My app. AirTags can be asked to play a sound to help locate them, and Precision Finding will give people the distance to and direction of the AirTag. It’s also possible to set location notifications for colleagues and personal contacts.
Agents often carry around sensitive and personal data that could compromise their security but the Street.co.uk app seeks to add a new layer of safety. Details, such as alarm and key safe codes, are encrypted and only accessed by Face-ID or fingerprint, spelling the end of scribbled notes or paper logs.
In addition to more tech-based safety solutions, Viewber recommends the following general advice:
- Always tell your colleagues where you are going and who you are meeting, along with the appointment’s start and anticipated end time
- Check in with colleagues when the appointment starts and when it ends
- Always carry a fully-charged mobile phone
- Carry a personal safety alarm or lone worker device
- Take a colleague to appointment you feel nervous about, even if they wait outside
- Leave immediately if you feel uneasy or threatened
- Do not accept or offer lifts involving clients
If you would like any advice about conducting viewings or Viewber’s safety procedures, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.