After over two years of designing, planning and testing, Smart911, the personal safety profile used by millions of people nationwide, is now available as an app. Smart911 is the only way registrants can create a safety profile that displays when they call 9-1-1. Users can provide key information about members in a household, such as medical conditions, disabilities or special medical needs, communication preferences and car and property details as part of their safety profiles.
How the Smart911 App Works
Many communities across the nation offer Smart911 as a resource to their visitors and residents. The new app acts as a fully functional replacement – new users can sign up and fill out their information all directly on the app.
In addition to National Weather Service alerts, the app offers local public safety agencies the ability to send location-based alerts. It provides your community a mobile way to communicate with 9-1-1 telecommunicators and update safety profile information.
With the Smart911 App, community members can:
- Create new Smart911 accounts.
- Upkeep, verify and edit all existing Smart911 accounts.
- Receive automated weather alerts from the National Weather Service.
- Receive public safety alerts based on their current location.
- Sign up for existing alerting lists or opt-in to a local vulnerable needs registry
This is a free service for community members. There is no cost to download, nor will they be charged for any of the services available through the app.
The Challenges in Creating A Mobile App for a Mobile Community
Equipping emergency dispatchers and first responders with this information can help them make faster and better decisions, shorten response times, and save lives. But, getting the community to easily maintain this information up-to-date has been a long-time struggle for public safety leaders across the nation. This is how the Smart911 app came to be. The changing tide of communication from personal computers to mobile phones also made the creation of this app natural and necessary, but it wasn't without its challenges.
Balancing Privacy and Location Enrichment Capabilities
In recent months, privacy concerns have been at the forefront of the national conversation. Several high-profile information leaks have come to light, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the propriety information of over 87 million users was shared with a political consulting firm. This made it critical to build the Smart911 app as a flexible tool that could be as robust as providing someone's full medical history and contact information to a 9-1-1 dispatcher receiving their call or as simple as someone being able to see alerts from other local communities.
The app has an anonymous mode that doesn’t require sharing any information – no name, no phone number, no location. Anonymous app users can view the interactive alert map, which shows all National Weather Service notifications and all push notifications from local communities. Each user sets a person pin code to add an extra layer of precaution in case a device is stolen.The real benefit here is keeping an individual safe while in a city or town using a community alerting system.
By using location-based alerting, the app can push detailed emergency messages to people in a specific location, even those who haven’t signed up for community’s alerts, but happen to be in the area. It also allows people outside of the immediate area a chance to view the notification in the map view. App users can see all active automated National Weather Service alerts in the map view as well, including all tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flood warnings.
While the app has not been live for long, we were able to witness the power of those community alerts during two catastrophic events: Hurricane Florence on the Carolina Coast and Columbia Gas explosions in Northern Massachusetts.
What's Next for the Smart911 App
It's exciting to see the Smart911 app finally come to fruition. Rand Refrigeri, Sr. Director of Design at Rave, has been mocking up possible designs for the Smart911 app since he started at the company in 2013. “It feels surreal that we finally stopped just thinking about it and put it out there! But, it’s such an important service, one that we knew could grow exponentially once it launched into the mobile world, that we wanted to get it right. Over the years, the focus of the app had gone from just the Safety Profile with some gamification, to a small focus on community alerts, all the way to different ways to call 9-1-1 from within the app. At the end of the day, we feel the app we released has the perfect balance of tools (multiple alerting features paired with an easier registration and Safety Profile model) to keep state and local residents safe, secure, and connected to their communities.”
As technology continues to advance so will the app, but where we see our most valuable feedback is through our customers. Whether it's during an in-depth Guru session at our annual Rave Summit or even an email, the additional feedback is crucial to developing the next version of the Smart911 app.
Some features that are in the works based on this feedback include the ability for community alert system admins to send customized content to app users. For example, local non-emergency police numbers, parking enforcement, or an information about an anonymous tip line.
Ultimately, the Smart911 app will help communities be responsive in a mobile world.
Learn more about how you can bring Smart911 alerts to your community.
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