Hannah and Charlie Lucas of Cumming created the notOK app, a digital panic button that can summon a designated list of people when you’re in distress. CONTRIBUTED BY VANIA STOYANOVA
Photo: Photo by Vania Stoyanova
Photo: Photo by Vania Stoyanova

This Life: Cumming sibling duo creates app for when you’re not OK

A week or so ago, Hannah Lucas and her brother Charlie sat at their kitchen table in Cumming describing the moment the two of them put their heads together to create a digital panic button.

Hannah, they said, was in a pretty dark place. Not only was she suffering with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, a dysautonomic medical condition that causes her to pass out frequently and often times during school, but she was severely depressed from being bullied.

Kids at her high school took every opportunity to humiliate her. Some even called her a racial epithet, and when the lights went out in the classroom, they snickered no one would be able to see her because of her dark skin.

To deal, Hannah started cutting herself.

When her mom, Robin, walked in on her one day doing that last spring, Hannah screamed how much she hated being the sick girl.

In her mother’s arms, she shared her greatest fear — passing out someplace and someone taking advantage of her.

And then, she made a wish for an app that would allow her to press a button so a trusted friend or family member would know instantly that she was not OK.

Hannah, then 15, was still reeling from that moment the next day when she mentioned it to 13-year-old Charlie, nicknamed “Tech Support.”

“Can you help me find an app in the App Store?” she asked her brother.

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There was no such thing, but the siblings couldn’t let it go. In a rare moment, they joined forces and after some research did some early drawings of what the app might look like.

After taking a programming class in June, Charlie began wireframing the app’s basic premise and figured out the best workflow.

He built Hannah a website and created their first logo. Hannah hid her mother’s words — “You will get beauty from these ashes” — in her heart.

Hannah Lucas, 16, suffers from POTS, a condition that causes her to faint frequently. With the help of her brother, Charlie, the teen created an app that will summon help at the click of a button. CONTRIBUTED BY VANIA STOYANOVA
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Together the siblings started looking for a developer to help them make the app, one that with just the push of a button would let a designated list of people know you were in trouble with your exact location.

When Hannah shared her dream with instructors in a summer business class she was enrolled in at Georgia Tech, they got behind the idea. They showed her multiple marketing strategies and suggested a few developers.

After one failed attempt to come to an agreement, they met with East Taylor Creative in Savannah via Skype.

“We just kinda clicked with them,” Hannah said. “They were really excited about the app. They thought of a million different marketing strategies, and it was really great.”

It was Charlie, though, who led the way, showing them how he and Hannah wanted the app to look and most importantly how it was to operate.

Charlie Lucas’ family calls him “Tech Support.” The 13-year-old helped his sister, Hannah, design an app that would allow her to let a list of trusted friends and family members know when she needs help. CONTRIBUTED BY VANIA STOYANOVA
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By mid-December, Lindy and Jason Weimer of East Taylor Creative had a working prototype of the notOK app, a birthday present for Hannah.

Could they jump online for a quick meeting?

“It was exactly what we wanted,” Charlie said.

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They submitted it for App Store approval. Four times, the application was rejected; then finally on Jan. 18, the news was different. They got the go-ahead. The app was approved.

Days later on Jan. 31, Bell Let’s Talk Day, which promotes mental health awareness, the notOK app officially launched in the U.S. and Canada.

In an age of record mass school shootings, record bullying and aging boomers, most people will agree the need for a digital panic button is great. Whether you’re a teen or an adult suffering from loneliness, anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, or anything else, composing a text message or placing a phone call to get the support or help you need can be next to impossible.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The notOK app, available in iOS and Android versions, keeps it simple — open the app, tap the notOK button and a text message will be sent to up to five pre-selected contacts that reads: “Hey, I’m not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me,” along with a link to your current GPS location.

The app is available as a free download, but $1.99, the cost of a cup of coffee or song download, pays for a monthlong subscription.

To date, the notOK app has already had thousands of downloads, and the Lucas siblings have even closed their first round of venture capital funding.

While notOK was initially created for Hannah to give her peace of mind and security, she is beyond thrilled to know that her app will help many more people.

“It’s like I went through my dark times just so I could help people through theirs,” she said. “It makes everything I went through last year worth it.”

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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