By Laura Costello - January 29, 2019
Recently, we introduced the first-ever Smart911 mobile app, but the mental health crisis has introduced a new opportunity for Smart911 to make a difference in emergency response. An individual’s mental and behavioral health conditions are often misunderstood by 9-1-1 and first responders. Common behaviors such as racing thoughts, anger, irritability and hearing voices can be perceived by first responders as threatening, sometimes leading to tragic fatalities for the individual.
The lack of information provided to 9-1-1 call takers about these individuals in crisis results in less situational awareness for first responders. First responders arrive on the scene with no background on the caller, their history, or how to best approach them. This information gap contributes to the tragic fact that 1 in 4 individuals fatally shot by police suffered from untreated, severe mental health conditions, despite these individuals making up just two percent of the overall population.
Recognizing the opportunity to better educate first responders about a 9-1-1 caller’s mental or behavioral health, Kern County, California partnered with Rave Mobile Safety to implement Smart911 as part of a comprehensive safety plan with a focus on mental health concerns.
With Smart911, community members can provide 9-1-1 call takers and first responders critical information you want them to know in any kind of emergency. When an individual calls 9-1-1, their Smart911 Safety Profile displays on the 9-1-1 screen and the 9-1-1 call takers can view key information including addresses, medical information, home information, description of pets and vehicles, and emergency contacts.
Through their work with Rave Mobile Safety’s product team, Kern County identified changes to be made to the Safety Profile to better support data collection as well as data sharing around mental health.
Rave Mobile Safety implemented these changes as a result of Kern County’s suggestions of the type of data 9-1-1 and first responders need to collect to implement successful safety initiatives, especially when it came to mental health. These customer discussions and collaboration resulted in updates that provided a more nuanced version of the information that was already being collected.
For example, there was always an option for individuals to identify their neurological, behavioral, and cognitive conditions. With the new updates, it allows those with these conditions to better describe their conditions and behaviors in more detail.
One of the other key improvements to Smart911 is the capability for individuals without a permanent residence or address to sign up and describe their housing situation. In the past, residents needed a living address to sign up for Smart911 - the new field allows these people to specify the area of the city where they can be located, making Smart911 more accessible to all.
By providing this information, residents from vulnerable communities will be able to access relevant emergency services more readily. It also opens up a unique opportunity for community outreach - by spreading awareness at local shelters or partnering with an organization combating homelessness in the community, local law enforcement and first response teams can better help these individuals during an emergency. It will provide greater access to resources for those who are most vulnerable, and improve safety and security for the community overall.
These enhancements will better serve 9-1-1 with critical and actionable information, providing first responders with background on the individual’s behaviors and emotional state will be available as soon as possible to those in the field.
The latest Smart911 upgrade is part of the future of the Safety Profile and its role in improving community safety. These changes will help first responders better serve residents, improving emergency response for towns, counties and states. By improving the specificity of mental health conditions and behaviors, and allowing residents who are homeless or transient to describe their living situation, Smart911 will now have even greater capability improving emergency response.
Laura Costello is Director, Product Management for Rave 911 Suite. She can’t believe she has already been with Rave for two years. Her background is in engineering, and she’s glad to be writing requirements these days instead of code. Now she works with clients to explore new and innovative ways to support your public safety mission. If you have ideas, she wants to hear them. When not at work, you’ll find Laura out hiking and photographing wildflowers.
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