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Phone Tree Proposal


A contact structure allowing people to have the assurance of someone checking in on their physical health during the Covid 19 crisis, with the capacity for effective intervention, while minimizing revealed personal information, technological complexity, and risk of false-positive interventions.

Prior Art

Please find some!!! I'm flying blind here, and not for lack of looking.


Each participant should have a minimum of two contacts who possess their full data. The full data should involve at least two methods of contact that reach them by different networks, at least one of which is asynchronous ('inbox') and one realtime ('chat' or 'call'). It should also include physical location, since this is a physical safety support network. In order to be effective, participants should ensure their contacts also have emergency services, neighbor or local friend, and importantly mutual aid network information for that locale saved.

The participant agrees to remain in regular communication with their contacts. Should this communication break down, the contacts are responsible to reach out and re-establish. A timeframe and sequence of actions should be agreed upon in advance by all participants with their contacts, regarding escalation if no communication can be made, or if communication is made but the participant appears to be in medical distress. A standard topic checklist may be appropriate for verifying needs such as food, medicine and mental health. Arrangements should be agreed in advance for how to break off the communication if there is going to be a known gap in availability. Contacts should coordinate with each other on major decisions to prevent panic based action.

The above could be embodied in a form/document to be filled out by the participant and held by their contacts. However, the document is only to ensure possession of necessary information; it is the habitual check-in action combined with human judgement that facilitates safety.

Philosophy and Extensions

A central check-in location is a feasible addition to reduce communication load and chance of mishaps, but it would also reduce the human factor. In this instance, contrary to networks designed for automated high uptime, the failures are the signal and automatic action is the bug, so the human factor is a necessary aspect. However, clear procedures are necessary to hold human action to a standard of consent under stress, and the circumstances considered certainly qualify as stressful. One alternative to central check-ins that retains the human factor might be for a participant's contacts to be the ones who check them in as reachable.

Another feasible addition would be a meta-data centralizer that would make available either publicly or to all participants and contacts the network of who is a contact for whom. The value in this would be that third parties, if they had a reasonable suspicion that someone out of communication needed assistance, would be able to reach out that person's contacts in order to establish a chain of judgement calls with the potential to actively assist.

Suggested Structure

I would suggest the meta-data centralizer at a group level, which any group may implement as something as simple as a spreadsheet or text file, along with a downloadable form to encourage participants to collect their complete information for their contacts, and a procedure page for contacts to follow. ~feonixrift

It has been suggested to me that a buddy-style system would work for this – for more reclusive persons, perhaps, however I would note that a single contact is more likely to take a needless action out of panic than two contacts in conjunction are. ~feonixrift

Draft Contact Form

Draft Procedure Document

phonetree_proposal.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/29 00:01 by feonixrift