Chesterton Tribune

Smart911 offers promise of quicker emergency response

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By DOUG ELISH

Every second can matter in an emergency.

Smart911 could save Porter County first responders a lot of them.

The soon-to-be-implemented supplemental 911 service allows emergency personnel instant access to a detailed database of information linked to the telephone number calling the 911 dispatch center.

Porter County will soon be one of just a handful of communities in the nation taking advantage of the service after the county commissioners unanimously approved implementation of Smart911 at their Tuesday meeting.

The system is simple to use and understand.

Community members will be able to create a free account to provide any information that could be relevant to emergency personnel. Then, when they dial 9-1-1 from a phone number listed on the account, their family profile will instantly appear on the dispatcher’s computer screen.

To ensure privacy, entered information is not available for access until a call from a confirmed number to 911 activates the account.

One scenario in which this would be life-saving would be in the case of a fire. Instead of firefighters getting to a house and trying to communicate with people in a crisis, they would already have an idea of who could be in the house and what assistance they might need.

The service can be used to alert responders to children, elderly family members, persons with disabilities and even pets.

“I really don’t see any drawbacks,” commissioner president John Evans said. “The more knowledge you can give to people in an emergency situation, the better. It’s a good thing for everyone.”

Another benefit of the system is dealing with missing persons. When someone is reported missing, there is a significant time lapse before family members can get a picture to police for circulation. If a family is registered and has entered pictures of their family on Smart911, then a picture of the missing person can be sent to all active squad cars within seconds.

“This system has been responsible for saving lives,” Evans said. “I think this will really be an asset for the county.”

The impetus for getting the system to Porter County came when Valparaiso’s disability awareness committee realized the flaws in its system for getting information to emergency personnel. Valparaiso’s system had difficultly ensuring what information was still valid and accurate. Accounts were not updated when living arrangements changed or people passed away.

The company that runs Smart911 has a staff to handle the system updates by keeping in e-mail or phone contact with users at different points of the year. Information can also be easily updated on the Internet.

“This system will provide better protection for your family and home,” Evans said.

The system, which is being used in around 35 communities in the country, should take around 30 to 45 days to implement. The commissioners entered a five-year contract with Smart911 that will cost the county $150,000 over the duration. The money will be taken from the E911 “Rainy Day” fund.

 

 

 

 

Posted 6/22/2011

 

 

 

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