At Sonder, we monitor all major public safety incidents in Australia, and have the technology to help protect our members if something happens near them. When someone drove their car into a busy pedestrian area near Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station in 2017, we used our Safety Alerts function to ensure the safety of our members who were nearby at the time of the incident.
On the afternoon of December 21, 2017, a 32-year-old man rammed his car into a group of pedestrians outside Melbourne’s busy Flinders Street train station, killing one person and injuring 17 others. Nine of the victims were overseas nationals from countries including China, South Korea, India, Italy, Venezuela, Ireland and New Zealand.
At Sonder, we closely monitor all public safety incidents as they unfold, through our world-class operations facility. The Sonder Support Centre was able to quickly identify the Sonder members in the vicinity of the Flinders Street incident. Within three minutes of the incident being officially confirmed by the Victorian Police, Sonder initiated a Safety Alert asking the members to confirm their safety, followed up by a phone call.
Here’s what happened to one of our members who we located to be near Flinders Street Station that afternoon.
Chinese student’s ‘surprise’ phone call
In a restaurant close to Flinders Street Station, a 21-year-old female Chinese student, and Sonder member, was having lunch when the attack happened. Within minutes of the incident occurring, she received a text message alerting her something had happened and asking to confirm if she was safe. When there was no response from the student, the Sonder Support Team followed up with a phone call to check on her safety and to warn her to avoid the area. She hadn’t seen the original message and was not aware of the incident, so was extremely relieved to have had the follow-up call.
“I received a surprise phone call from Sonder when I was having lunch at Chinatown. It turned out to be that there was a major incident that happened in Melbourne CBD nearby so they were calling to make sure that I am safe. After the phone call, the thought that I could have left the restaurant and run into the incident if Sonder staff didn’t call me really made me worry.” – Student and Sonder member, 21, Melbourne
All potentially-affected members confirmed their safety and Sonder ensured they were kept informed about how to stay safe. These members included students at four surrounding educational institutions. In addition, all associated institutions were immediately informed of the safety status of their students.
Sonder Support Centre: How it happened
Here’s how we managed our member’s safety during this critical incident:
4:52 pm: Our monitoring tool identifies there has been an incident in Melbourne. Sonder staff actively pursue additional information sources to verify the incident.
4:53 pm: Sonder Support Centre staff identify the Sonder members in the vicinity of the incident. The Sonder Technology Platform is used to geo-fence the incident site and confirm the location of Sonder members nearby and in surrounding areas.
5:02 pm: Victoria Police official Twitter account confirms the incident. This triggers the Support Centre to move from ’monitoring’ to ‘active engagement’ with members.
5:04 pm: The Sonder Action Plan is confirmed: ‘I am Safe’ request followed up by phone call to members suspected to be involved.
5:05 pm: “I am Safe” request is initiated: “ALERT: Security incident – Flinders St. Sonder will advise once SAFE.”
5:23 – 6:33 pm: The Sonder Support Centre team make follow-up calls to members. Sonder Support Centre staff simultaneously undertake member demographic analysis, identifying education providers, confirming alternative contact details and emergency contacts.
6:43 pm: We receive a 93.8% response rate for the ”I am Safe” function. The responses are received through a combination of phone contact and Sonder app use.
7:20 pm: Victoria Police confirm the incident is intentional and that two men are in custody. Motives currently unknown.
11:05 pm: 100% response rate for “I am Safe” function. No Sonder members are adversely affected by the incident.
Sonder’s monitoring tool allowed us to know about the incident shortly after it had happened, and our geolocation technology meant that we were able to find the members who were in potential risk of danger and help them take the best action to protect their safety.