Of all the tools first responders are equipped with, information might be the most important.
For five years, Boone County Joint Communications has used Smart911, an online system that allows dispatchers to access personal information during emergency calls. A new system coupled with Smart911 is designed to better prepare emergency responders to help in disasters and other emergencies.
The Smart911 system, first used in Missouri by Boone County, allows residents to submit their personal information — address, phone number, emergency contacts, physical appearance and more — and medical information that can be critical in emergencies. Domestic violence victims can describe their abuser, and non-English speaking citizens can select their language so joint communications can find the appropriate interpreter.
The county is connecting its Smart911 system with SmartPrepare, a new emergency management tool that will allow emergency responders to identify needs during disasters. Residents will be able to check a box for their Smart911 information to be used in SmartPrepare. Both systems run through the same parent company, Rave Mobile Safety.
Before SmartPrepare, the resident-supplied information only was accessible to joint communications when someone called 911. Dispatchers have access to the information for a 15-minute window after a call ends, which is helpful if the caller hangs up, said Joe Piper, deputy director of Boone County Joint Communications.
Now, emergency management officials can run a query for a specific condition through SmartPrepare to access that information. Using information in Smart911, SmartPrepare maps out addresses meeting the criteria, such as places where residents have certain medical needs.
Rave Mobile Safety holds the information, which Boone County Emergency Management Director Terry Cassil said only will be used in disaster or emergency situations.
“We’re not seeking that information, we’re not demanding it, but for folks that could benefit from it, it’s one more prong of communication that we have,” said Tom Hurley, deputy director of emergency management.
In an evacuation, for example, Cassil said emergency responders can identify homes with immobile residents and dedicate the resources to help them.
“It just gives us a quicker snapshot of where the needs may be,” Cassil said.
Boone County is about to go live with another tool to make communication better in emergency situations. The county and University of Missouri jointly purchased a new emergency notification system, Rave Alert, and the system will go live Sept. 13. It will replace the county’s current system through Nixle. Hurley said there will be an overlap period as the county transitions from Nixle to Rave Alert.
The university’s Rave Alert system is active and took the place of the Blackboard Connect 5 notification system. Students can sign up for both the university and county systems.
City and county residents will be able to sign up through the Boone County Emergency Management website. They can choose how they want to be notified, including text messaging, email or phone, and select the types of notifications they want to receive, such as active shooter, severe weather and traffic conditions.
All students also receive emergency alerts through their university emails, pursuant to the Clery Act, which requires colleges to notify students of “eminent or dangerous” on-campus situations, said Eric Evans, emergency management coordinator for the university.
He said the university also is encouraging students to sign up for Smart911, especially if they have medical needs