This is a guest post written by Brandon Wallace, Athens Limestone County 911 Director. Athens Limestone County, Alabama implemented the e911 service 3 years ago and it has helped save lives ever since
"The success of our e911 service relies on residents being proactive and creating Safety Profiles for themselves and their family, even when an emergency doesn’t seem likely."
Our dispatchers have experienced firsthand how the stress and anxiety of an emergency situation can impact someone’s ability to communicate effectively. Though our staff are exceptionally trained to help people in a crisis, sometimes there is only so much that we can do. Oftentimes we receive calls from residents who are unable to communicate with us clearly. A caller may be non-verbal or a non-English speaker. In some instances, a caller feels that communicating verbally to dispatchers may put them at greater risk, as frequently seen in cases of domestic violence. More often than not however, the stress of an emergency situation can cause callers to panic making it difficult for 9-1-1 dispatchers to retrieve the necessary information. A lack of caller information challenges our ability to quickly understand the nature of the emergency and identify their exact location.
This confusion leads to one thing: time.
More time to determine the type and location of the emergency, more time to dispatch first responders to the scene, and ultimately more time before the 9-1-1 caller receives assistance. Our main goal at Athens Limestone County 911 Dispatch Center is to make sure our emergency callers receive the help they need as quickly as possible. Sometimes, to build a safer community, it’s not enough to exhaust all of our resources – we need the county people to hold themselves accountable too.
Athens Limestone County 911 implemented an e911 service known as Smart911 nearly 3 years ago because we believed in its potential to save lives. Smart911 is a feature of a critical data and communication platform called the Rave 911 Suite.
The e911 service is free to all residents and travelers in the region and enables individuals to create a Safety Profile for their household including any information they want 9-1-1 and first responders to have in an emergency. One particular resident of Limestone County recently discovered how important information provided in his Smart911 Safety Profile could be in a potentially life-threatening situation.
Mr. Burrus (first name omitted for privacy) suffers from seizures and has unfortunately experienced difficulty contacting emergency response during some of his past episodes. About a month ago, Mr. Burrus was home alone when he experienced another seizure. It took him almost four hours before he was able to get to the phone and dial 9-1-1, but by this time the seizure had dissipated and was no longer considered a medical emergency. Sadly, Mr. Burrus had to experience this seizure alone and without any medical assistance. It was shortly after this event that Mrs. Burris researched the e911 service and created a Safety Profile. She knew it was only a matter of time before her husband would experience another seizure and she wanted them to be prepared.
Fortunately, Mrs. Burrus was extremely thorough when creating her family’s Safety Profile. According to Limestone County Telecommunicators, Taylor Shores and Kristi Ussery, the detail provided in this particular profile is largely the reason Mr. Burrus is still alive today.
In the afternoon on August 1, 2017, Mr. Burrus was forced to dial 9-1-1 when he began to experience another medical emergency. When Athens Limestone County 911 answered his call, Mr. Burrus lost his ability to speak. In the past, responding telecommunicators would be unable to determine the name of the caller, his or her location, or the nature of emergency at hand. In this case, however, Mr. Burrus’ Safety Profile immediately displayed on Shores and Ussery’s screen, relaying critical information such as his medical history and home address.
The emergency response protocol in Limestone County requires police to be dispatched to the scene first and the officer then communicates to central dispatch whether the situation requires additional response services. However, the information provided in Mr. Burrus’ Safety Profile detailing his history with seizures informed Shores and Ussery that immediate medical assistance was needed. This knowledge allowed them to bypass protocol and immediately dispatch appropriate first responders to the scene. If Mrs. Burrus had not created Safety Profiles for her family, protocol would have delayed the arrival of medical responders by almost 20 minutes. For Mr. Burrus and many other 9-1-1 callers like him, 20 minutes was a luxury he did not have.
The success of our e911 service relies on residents being proactive and creating Safety Profiles for themselves and their family, even when an emergency doesn’t seem likely. One of my biggest challenges as a 9-1-1 Director is establishing a sense of urgency in my community. When the weather is nice and your family appears to be happy and healthy, it’s natural to push safety to the back of your mind. No one expects an emergency to happen, but being prepared in case one should strike is crucial. The information provided in an individual’s Smart911 Safety Profile can speak to 9-1-1 dispatchers even if the caller is unable to communicate.
A news story published by WHNT News 19 further illustrates the impact Smart911 has had on the emergency response process in Athens Limestone County 911.
Smart911 is a national service that protects over 45 million people across 44 states and 3,100 communities and has been credited with positively impacting emergency outcomes across the country. Create a Smart911 Safety Profile and make sure you and your community are protected.