A New and Improved 9-1-1 Offers Faster, Better Help
People who live and work in Luzerne County may start entering personal and household data into a new 911 program that will provide helpful and potentially life-saving information to emergency responders.
The program, called Smart911, is expected to go live around Sept. 1.
Participation is voluntary. Extensive details may be entered, from allergies and medications and the type of pets in a household to the location of gas valve shut-offs and electrical panels.
The information is tied to telephone numbers – landline and cell phone – and will only pop up on 911 dispatchers’ computer screens if emergency calls come in from the registered phone numbers, officials say.
Luzerne is believed to be the first Pennsylvania county to implement the system, though it’s expected to grow rapidly.
Luzerne County 911 Data/Technical Support Manager Fred Rosencrans proposed the new program after seeing an online demonstration. Dispatchers typically know only names and addresses when a call comes in, and even that information may not be accurate if it’s from a cell phone, he said.
Fifty-seven percent, or 120,047, of the emergency calls made to county 911 last year came from wireless phones, county officials say.
911 callers may be losing consciousness or unable to speak and alert responders to relevant details, such as their allergy to penicillin or aspirin products, Rosencrans said.
“This supplemental database will provide important information to the person who will be working on you, and that’s a major benefit,” he said.
The data will also be conveyed to other 911 centers throughout the country that participate in Smart 911 if local residents use their cell phones when they’re traveling, he said.
The service, purchased from Rave Mobile Safety Inc., will cost $415,000 over five years. The expense is funded by a $1.25 fee on landline phones. This money must be used for improving 911 services and may not cover county general fund operating expenses, according to 911.
Information may be entered by visiting www.smart911.com and clicking on the “register now” button. Participants must set up a user ID and password.
Details about buildings may be entered first, including both residences and offices. Information about a building’s color and siding, gas valves and electrical panels and bedroom locations is requested along with any special instructions on how to find or gain access to the property, such as major cross streets, mile markers, landmarks or security systems.
Critical care information about people is entered next, with the option to include all household members tied to a particular phone number. Physical descriptions, primary and secondary languages, blood types, allergies, medical conditions and medications may be submitted for each person.
Photos may also be uploaded, which is encouraged for children. If a child is abducted, the 911 dispatcher could instantly send a photo of the child along with the written Amber Alert message, rather than waiting for police to obtain a photo. Local police would access the photo their cell phones or computers, making it easier to spot the child.
The list of rescue information is extensive, giving participants the ability to note if any household members are confined to a bed or wheelchair, hard of hearing, reliant on walkers, over 300 pounds or using oxygen tanks.
Participants may list descriptions of their vehicles, which could be particularly helpful if they make an emergency call from their cell phones during travel.
Pet information includes the animal’s name, species, weight and veterinarian name and number.
Emergency contacts may also be designated in case first responders need to contact a family member, friend, neighbor or doctor.
People who have restraining orders against someone could note that in case there’s a domestic dispute.
It’s up to participants to make sure the information in their accounts is regularly updated and accurate.
By Jennifer Learn-Andes, Luzerne County Reporter