Smart 911 will enhance safety

Friday, June 15, 2012

CARROLL COUNTY -- Arkansas has gained distinction recently by being the first to launch, statewide, "Smart 911," an enhanced emergency dispatching system.

While other states have it, Arkansas is making it available to residents in every county. It has already being tried as a pilot program in Benton and Pulaski counties.

The system is more than just enhanced 911, which allows dispatchers to see an address pop up when someone dials for help from a landline. With Smart 911, in addition to registering a landline, callers can also register other phone numbers such as cell phone numbers.

Each user creates a "safety profile" of themselves, family members and even pets at their home by signing up at www.smart911.com. They can add medical conditions, medications, medical history, disabilities, special needs, emergency contact and other information that may be useful in an emergency.

When they call 911 from a phone they have registered with the service, their information will pop up at the 911 call center that receives the call, if it has Smart 911. Dispatchers can then advise Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs), firefighters and law enforcement of any special medical conditions or circumstances that may impact getting help to the caller.

The information is completely voluntary and is kept private. Each user creates a login and password.

In addition, to protect privacy, the information is not available online to anyone but the 911 call center, and then it is only accessible for 45 minutes after the call is made.

The service may not work, however, if a caller on a cell phone is located in area where the call is routed to a dispatch center that does not have Smart 911 enabled.

The program will not cost the county dispatch offices anything. The state legislature authorized $1 million for startup costs, through Act 213. Continuing costs are estimated to be $400,000 to $600,00 per year, which legislators are optimistic about continuing to fund.

In Carroll County, Sheriff Bob Grudek said they are onboard with the idea.

"All we have to do is advise the telephone company that we want to do it," he said. "How could you say no to it? It doesn't cost the county anything, and will get better help to people. But it's up to the individual to sign up for it. It sounds, from everything I've heard, like it will be an excellent program."

The service is offered by software company Rave Mobile Safety, headquartered in Framingham, Mass.

"It sounds like it could be a good source of information for emergency responders," said Eureka Springs Assistant Fire Chief Bob Pettus. "I would encourage it."

He said some concerns about the service might be that citizens would have to be sure to update their information when there is a change.

"There will be people who leave the area or change their phone number, and that number might be linked to information that is not for the current residents. We could get wrong information linked to a wrong person with a cell phone number."

Rave Mobile Safety says users are expected to update their information at least every six months, or their account could be suspended.

For more information, visit www.smart911.com.

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