Dubuque County Emergency Responders Have Seen a Great Benefit from an Enhanced 9-1-1 Service in its First Six Months, Especially When Responding to Medical Calls.
Smart911 launched in [Dubuque County] in December of 2013. The free optional service allows county residents to submit personal information, such as their medical history, that can be accessed by first responders when a related 911 call is placed.
First responders already have seen its impacts. Dubuque Assistant Fire Chief Chris Miller said having a medical history available allows emergency responders to quickly identify how best to help someone who is unconscious, for example.
"It's especially valuable for people who may be living alone," Miller said.
It's unclear how many county residents have signed up for the service. County 911 Manager Mark Murphy would not disclose how many profiles have been created, nor would a spokeswoman for the company that administers the service.
Participating residents can establish profiles that include information such as how many people live at a residence, if there are any pets and notable medical history such as allergies. Each user determines what and how much information to submit.
When the 911 center receives a call from a registered user, Smart911 automatically retrieves that person's profile, allowing it to be viewed by emergency dispatchers and relayed to first responders.
"We do see it being used. We average seeing about two or three profiles a week for calls," Murphy said.
The software company that created Smart 911 stores the personal data -- not local law enforcement or emergency response agencies. The information is accessible to responders only during a 911 call and for 45 minutes after, and company officials said the information remains secure when not in use.
Along with providing helpful information for people in emergency situations, Murphy said, the Smart911 software already has shown another benefit. Using the service, county officials sent a text message to a person who had made repeated harassing phone calls to 911 to tell the person to stop. The person in that case did not have an established Smart911 profile.
Jessica Olson Rose, community marketing manager for Smart911, said that is one of the latest features of the service. She said people can't use it to text 911, but there have been times when 911 dispatchers were able to text with callers who couldn't be understood because of weak cellphone reception.
Murphy said officials would like to build more participation in the program, given its benefits.
"We want to encourage more people to sign up," Murphy said.
By Alicia Yager
Posted June 21, 2014