How Roar keeps vulnerable employees safe

Worker safety is increasingly top-of-mind for hoteliers, and new technology is making it easier for hotel team members to call for help with the push of a button.

Roar Panic Button Solution, formerly known as AlwaysOn, is a wearable product from Philadelphia-based tech company Roar (formerly known as Roar for Good) that lets hotel workers call for help with the push of a button. The company was founded by Yasmine Mustafa, who knew from experience how unsafe hospitality workers—especially women—could feel.  

Born in Kuwait, Mustafa came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was eight years old as the Gulf War began. At 15, she learned that she was undocumented, and her father left the family three years later, taking all the family savings with him. Mustafa worked to help support her family, even while attending Philadelphia’s Temple University. “I spent about 10 years working in hospitality, back of house, and experiencing a lot of unsafe conditions,” she recalled. “Being undocumented, unfortunately, I had certain bosses that wanted to take full advantage of that and felt emboldened to ask for and do things they should not do to anyone.”

She secured her citizenship, graduated summa cum laude from Temple and became a serial entrepreneur. Seeking a way to leverage technology to keep people safe, Mustafa co-founded Roar in 2014, just as wearable technology was going from niche to popular trend. “I thought, how cool would it be if there was a wearable that looked nice that women could use to protect themselves?” The Roar team soon learned, however, that only about half of the people who had a device would regularly wear it. “We were fighting against human instinct,” Mustafa recalled. “We just don't think about prevention until something happens.” 

They found a solution as hoteliers began seeking ways to keep their workers safer on property. With mandates and legislation requiring hoteliers to provide safety equipment to their workers, the Roar target audience shifted from individuals to hotel teams. 

Once a user presses the panic button, the Roar Panic Button Solution devices transmit the user’s location—even without Wi-Fi or during power outages. The system’s battery-powered smart beacons can be installed without wires so they can fit wherever they are needed. The company patented its own Bluetooth mesh for protecting people inside of buildings and pinpointing an activated device’s location. “No matter what type of building there is, our solution covers any dead spots to make sure that if anyone presses the button, the alert is sent to others to get help when needed,” Mustafa said. 

Safety and Loyalty

Mustafa shared an example of how the Roar Panic Button Solution devices can help hotel workers: At a large-scale property with more than 1,400 guestrooms, a man hid in a linen closet on a guest floor after sneaking past security. When a housekeeper opened the closet’s door, he attacked her and began choking her. “She was able to use the button to get help to that linen closet and security was able to come save her, detain him and call the police to arrest him,” Mustafa said. “She believes it might have saved her life.” The incident, she added, illustrates how easy-to-use devices can mitigate disaster: “You never really know what's going to happen.”

And as hotels cope with the labor shortage driven by the Great Resignation, Mustafa thinks wearable security devices may help encourage workers to stay at a property that protects them. The housekeeper who was attacked at the linen closet, she said, feels more loyal to her employer because the hotel both provided her with the safety equipment she needed and responded right away when she called for help. “We all know that you need to take care of your staff [so they can] take care of you," Mustafa said. "But here's someone that has something happened to her personally and was able to see the benefit and then clearly say that she is more likely to stay.” 

Ultimately, Mustafa said, Roar is all about protecting people and making sure they don't have the kinds of experiences she and other people had in their hospitality careers. “The onus is always on women and vulnerable people to protect themselves—and it really shouldn't be,” she said. “Safety is a human fundamental right.”

Logic in Logistics

Yasmine Mustafa describes herself as a “nontechnical founder running a tech company.” Since she herself does not code, she said it was “imperative”  that she hire people who knew more  about the tech side of the business than she did. “I really rely heavily on my team to be able to make sure that we're developing a reliable, stable solution—especially one that protects the people, that is the best at what it can do and what it can be.” At the same time, she can provide the “human user” perspective to determine how nontech people would interact with the system. Mustafa also emphasized the importance of diversity on a team, with people from different backgrounds and different experiences as part of the tech solutions.

Clicking with Clients

The Roar team connects with its customers by phone and at trade shows. "Once we're off-site, we are proactive in ongoing outreach to make sure our system is satisfying customers and being used as intended," Mustafa said. This is particularly important to the team, she added, because engagement is key. "We reach out when we see an alert has gone off for more than a few minutes to make sure everything is OK." The team also sends ongoing surveys to clients to gauge their satisfaction with the system and how they would like to see the product evolve.