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October 16, 2012
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Michelle Perin Communications and Communicators
with Michelle Perin

Smart911: Saving lives through information sharing

It is important to have a system that allows citizens to have an active role in being prepared and advising emergency responders in advance what their needs are

As a telecommunications operator, I’ve said to myself many times, “It would have been helpful to know this information at the time of the call.”

This could have been in reference to a citizen’s medical condition including current medications and allergies. It could have been information helping me guide first responders into a residence through the back door because the front door is always blocked. What about a current picture of their missing child?

I could go on and on about things that would be helpful to know to do my job better.

Smart911
Citizens know themselves best. They know their vulnerabilities and their risk points. Unfortunately, they tend to forget to relay this type of information when they are in panic mode.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if citizens were given a tool that can help them help first responders when they need them?

Enter Smart911.

Smart911 is a safety software solution allowing citizens anywhere in the country to create a Safety Profile free of charge. This profile includes critical data such as medical conditions, medications, photographs, vehicle and pet information, location clarifications and emergency notifications which is relayed directly to 911 operators when a call is placed to 911 from the registered phone number.

This profile can include as much or as little information as the caller would like to add. Landlines and cell phones can be linked to the Safety Profile. Safety Profiles are 100 percent safe and secure and must be validated every six months.

“We run on a combination of call-taking software and CAD,” Todd Piett, Chief Production Officer at Rave Mobile Safety, explained.

“There is a spill of data from the ANI/ALI. It queries out to our posted data services and asks if it knows anything about this number. If you’ve registered anywhere in the country, your information will show up. The call taker answers the call and a pop-up comes up on their CAD as a little web screen.”

The operator can then copy and paste the information into whatever format fits their need, such as into the call notes themselves so it can be read via MDT. “A person could add that their son is autistic and reacts violently to flashing lights,” Piett said.

An additional line stating he will hide in the closet can help first responders find him. When an agency purchases Smart911, Rave Mobile Safety provides brochures for telecommunications operators to reference and managers receive a policy template and a power point to help implement training.

Benefits
“Knowing if a person is over 300 pounds or in an electric wheelchair is extremely helpful,” Piett said.

When asked how Smart911 is valuable to operators, Piett responded, “You tell me. You’re the expert,” showing how the company is focused on the end-user and how this technology helps us help others.

“Can you think of a situation where having medical conditions or a picture that pops up would be helpful? Would it be helpful to know that this caller has dementia and is not on drugs? That a caller is not capable of answering your questions?”

As a telecommunications professional, my only response would be a resounding, “YES!”

Along with the autistic community, another group benefiting from Smart911 is the deaf and hard of hearing. In addition to having the Safety Profile, a deaf or hard of hearing user has access to texting through a Smart911 app.

Handling 40 percent of the higher education clients, Rave Mobile Safety is the nation’s largest provider of emergency notification systems. Through this network, deaf/hard of hearing Smart911 users get text messaging via an IM that goes through Rave’s servers.

“If someone flags themselves as deaf/hard of hearing, you would get access to this app,” Piett said.

“The caller makes a voice call to 911 and they will get a message saying to hang up and send a text message.” Having a 911 caller hang up isn’t ideal, but in the interim before NG911 allows direct text messaging to 911, Smart911 is a viable option to serve the needs of this community.  

Arkansas and Nationwide
Smart911 is in more than 300 PSAPs large and small. An added bonus is that even if you live in an area that does not have the software, if you register your cell phone and travel into an area that does have it, Smart911 works.

This year, Arkansas became the first state to implement Smart911 statewide. “I wanted it statewide not just for one call center,” said Gary Gray, Operations Manager and Deputy Coordinator for Emergency Management for North Little Rock Emergency Services.

He saw where Smart911 could meet the needs of everyday Arkansans on a state-wide level. 

“Although we don’t have every agency, we’re in 25 states,” explained Piett. Close to my neck of the woods, this includes King County (Wash.). So, if I’m ever traveling up the Pike Place Market or to see a Mariners game, Smart911 has me covered.

As far as the number of registered users, according to Piett it varies by community. “The determining factor is in the outreach,” he said. “In communities where they are very active, like DC where it was endorsed by the mayor, we see a better response.” To assist in this, the company offers marketing as part of the Smart911 purchase.

Funding
To fund Smart911, Arkansas, with the help of Rave Mobile Safety, pursued support at the capitol level. “Senator Baker found the money through the auditor’s office,” Gray explained.

With funds from unclaimed property, the state was able to purchase life-saving Smart911. Cost of the software depends on the size of the agency.  According to Piett, most agencies use E911 funds and in some agencies, justice grants have been used.

On the Floor
So what do the users think?

“The dispatchers are elated because they can actually see the benefit of what this product can do,” Gray explained.

“They see how having this information and relaying it to the responders at the time of need helps the family. The dispatchers are very, very excited about providing better service.”

After all, we are in the life-saving business and if we are given tools that help us do our jobs better, faster and with positive results, what’s not to be excited about?

Smart911 is about preplanning for emergencies.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, our government told people to prepare for disasters,” Gray explained. “People did that. Now civil defense is part of homeland security. People are still being prepared.”

It is important to have a system that allows citizens to have an active role in being prepared and advising emergency responders in advance what their needs are.

Smart911 Works
In western Arkansas a frantic mother called 911 after her child ran into a barbeque grill causing a severe laceration. In her distraught state, she failed to mention his lethal allergy to latex.

As the ambulance raced to the scene, common protocol would have emergency medical personnel gloving up. Thanks to this mother’s preplanning and the state’s implementation of Smart911 the dispatcher saw the Safety Profile and broadcast the allergy to the responding units.

Smart911 helped the first responders, especially the ‘first’ first responder, the dispatcher, do her job and quite possibly saved the life of a small boy that day. Saving lives is what we do, and having the support of software such as Smart911 that helps us do that, is always a good thing. 

About the author

Michelle Perin spent seven and a half years as a police telecommunications operator with the City of Phoenix (Ariz.) Police Department. She is a Navy veteran and holds a graduate degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Her publication credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Law & Order, Beyond the Badge, Police Chief, Police Times, and Police Magazine. Michelle has done volunteer work as an advocate for sexual assault victims and veterans. She is currently a volunteer firefighter in the small Oregon town in which she lives. She rides a Triumph America with the Patriot Guard honoring those who have served our nation. She currently works at Jasper Mountain, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for severely traumatized children. Michelle enjoys spending time with her two adolescent sons, watching ice hockey, and volunteering at the local ferret shelter. Michelle has been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association since 2005 and has been the Contest Coordinator since 2007.

Contact Michelle Perin


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