In a serious medical emergency, nothing is more important than time.
And a new technology tool now available to Monroe, as well as many other communities nationwide, can put time on your side should a crisis befall you or someone in your home or business.
“This is a database that people can put their own information into, that is only accessible when they call 911,” said Monroe information officer Debbie Willis last week. “So all the questions emergency responders would usually ask when they get there, some of that at least they will already have when they arrive.”
The new program, called Smart 911, is centered around the telephone number or numbers of any resident who wants to participate.
To use the service, a person goes to www.smart911.com and registers a phone number, and then enters all his or her important information, including home address, a picture of the house if possible, all associated vehicles, what medications each resident or frequent visitor or employee takes, any medical conditions, photos of each person to help responders identify their patient, and even pets. The person may also enter the name of an emergency contact along with instructions for what to tell that person in the event of an emergency.
Then the person can enter the information of anyone else likely to spend significant time at that address, whether employees, family members, friends or even neighbors.
Then, if anyone calls 911 from that phone number, the dispatch center will automatically get a notice that the number is registered with Smart 911, and the responders can see all the information available associated with that number.
So, for example, if a business owner registers all the company’s employees and one has an accident or health emergency, all responders will have to do is learn which name associated with the number has been affected and find the information provided. That way, even if the employer isn’t able to recall that an employee is diabetic or HIV positive or has a penicillin allergy, emergency workers can arrive armed with that knowledge and respond accordingly.
And if you call from your cell phone from somewhere other than your home, as long as that number is registered, the dispatch can use technology to pinpoint the exact location of your phone. So if you are in a car crash and don’t know how to tell emergency responders exactly where you are, they can find out immediately.
As an example, Willis queried the phone number of an employee who had previously given permission to use her information for demonstration purposes.
To Willis’ surprise, the woman was located in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
“Oh, that’s right,” Willis said, chuckling. “She’s at a conference.”
The service also notified Willis that the woman has limited mobility and uses a wheelchair, and provided other relevant information as well.
Had the woman had an actual emergency and dialed 911 from her own phone, chances are New Orleans responders would have had access to that same information. More than 1,000 communities nationwide have signed up for the service, and more are joining up all the time.
And the service is useful in non-health emergencies as well, noted Willis.
“Say your vehicle is stolen, and you can’t remember your license number,” she said. “This gives all the information.”
SNOPAC, the dispatch service that serves Snohomish County, has added Smart 911 functionality in the last month, and now emergency workers are getting the word out that the service is available.
“The official launch for us was at National Night Out,” said Willis. “We thought that was fitting. The goal now is to get as many people in Snohomish County as possible to sign up.”
People worried about security breaches have some assurances with the program, Willis noted; the information is only available even to responders for only 45 minutes before it is locked up again, unless responders take steps to keep it open.
And none of the information goes into what is called the “catalog,” or the public record, that wouldn’t go in in any other case.
“This is a pretty cool tool,” said Willis. “It’s interesting because technology can be our friend. It can be overwhelming, but in the police world, it’s exciting to see technology that’s really going to help people.”
To sign up, go to www.smart911.com and create an account. The service is available free of charge.