How We Do It

Throughout the USA, we work with over 300 community-based organizations and law enforcement agencies to provide them with free phones they need to make their neighborhoods a safer place to live, work and play. After we collect the phones, volunteers prepare the phones to be reused by seniors and domestic abuse victims to summon emergency services when needed.


Fulfilling our mission involves three major efforts:

  1. The collection of unwanted used cell phones.
  2. The processing of the collected phones so that they can be reused.
  3. The distribution of the processed phones to those in need and at risk.

We started as an environmental group when we learned that there were over a half billion used cell phones sitting around in drawers across America. Their owners had upgraded and, unless something was done, the phones were destined for landfills where they would take 5-10,000 years to completely biodegrade. Our first activity is collection of unwanted used cell phones.


We have four basic methods for collecting phones.

  1. Permanent Collection Barrels. To date, we have over 900 barrels permanently located in Police Stations, Libraries, Grocery Stores, Cell Phone Stores, etc., etc. Our goal is to end 2012 with over 1,500 barrels conveniently located for anyone to donate a used cell phone.
  2. One Month Cell Phone Drives. Any organization, business or civic group can request that we send them a cell phone collection barrel to collect phones for a one month period. Secure the Call will make the drive as easy as possible – providing the barrel with a customized sign above it naming the sponsor with their logo and all the marketing materials needed to spread the word and take in as many phones as possible.
  3. Lost and Found Phones. Unfortunately, people lose their cell phones in rental cars, hotels, bars and restaurants, sporting events, etc. Most companies finding these phones make an effort to return them to their owners. After the phones have been held for thirty days, the original owner forfeits all ownership rights to them. Secure the Call has the great fortune to have many large and small companies that send us any phones that can’t be returned to their owners.
  4. Phones Just Show Up At Our Door. Every day the US Post office along with UPS and Fed Ex deliver phones that have been generously sent to us by people who find us on the Internet and want to help the program. We gladly welcome any and all phones and are grateful for every phone we receive.

All the phones we collect are shipped into our Takoma Park, MD headquarters. The first step of the process is inspection. Something like 20% of all donations are obviously broken or otherwise obviously unusable as free 911 phones. These are tossed in our scrap heap. Of the remainder, about a third either will not power up or are in some other way defective. They are likewise scrapped.


Phones that are left represent our available free 911 phones. Now serious processing begins. Donors trusting us with their old phones are understandably concerned about the protection of their private data. Consequently, Secure the Call goes to great lengths to wipe out the information on all phones that we receive. The public at large is counting on us to protect the information that’s still on the phone when they drop their phone in one of our collection barrels.

SIM chips are removed from the phones that have them and shredded on-site. There are two methods for removing the personal information that resides on the phones themselves. For most models we’re able to connect the phone to a computer and purge the private information electronically. Software digitally resets the phone to its original factory settings while erasing all donor entries from memory. For all other models, we use a hand-reset method. All phones come with factory instructions that allow them to be wiped of all private information and reset to factory defaults. Phones that for whatever reason resist purging of private information are scrapped.

At this point in the process, we have scrapped about half the phones collected. These phones are shipped to a recycling foundry that begins the process of reclaiming all valuable minerals from them for reuse. Donor phones are guaranteed to end up in the proper place, not a landfill.

Surviving phones are “topped off” (completely charged), and packaged with instructions and a battery charger. These phones are now ready for those that need them.


Those in need—primarily seniors and domestic abuse victims—get their processed phones from one of our more than 325 Community Partners. Each of these agencies has an interest in protecting one or more groups of at-risk individuals. The majority of individuals served by the program are seniors. Domestic abuse victims represent a large secondary group of recipients.

Senior Centers and Abuse Shelters distribute phones to the people they serve. Law enforcement agencies work tirelessly to distribute phones to both groups, frequently accepting agencies from both groups in their distribution efforts as well as their own witness programs and community policing initiatives. Beyond simple distribution, each group accepts responsibility for coaching their beneficiaries in use of the phones.

We are truly thankful for the help of each one of these Partners.