“Because Smart911 provided an alternate form of communication through texting, I was able to learn that there was a citizen in need, and where he was located, in order to dispatch help."
– ICCD Dispatcher John Wiechenthal
A dispatcher with Ionia County Central Dispatch (ICCD) was recognized for his use of Smart911, Ionia County's 9-1-1 service aimed at improving emergency response, to help a citizen who was stuck in snow.
ICCD Director Jim Valentine presented Dispatcher John Wiechenthal with a Smart911 SmartSave Award, which honors and rewards call-takers, dispatchers and emergency responders who use the national public safety service to positively resolve an emergency.
On Jan. 25, Wiechenthal received an "open-air" 9-1-1 call from a mobile phone. With no response from the caller, Wiechenthal used GPS coordinates to find an approximate location of the caller in Portland, and then conducted a phone number search on Facebook, which provided the citizen's name, a photo of their vehicle and a status update that indicated they may be in trouble.
After dispatching police to the approximate location with the citizen's name and vehicle details, Wiechenthal used Smart911 to send a text message to the caller. Even though the caller had not yet signed up for Smart911, Wiechenthal was able to communicate with the citizen using the texting component of the system to determine an exact location and learn that their car was stuck in the snow. Police were then sent to provide assistance.
"It can be difficult to determine the situation on an open-air call," Wiechenthal said. "In some cases it is an accidental dial, but in each case we have to use every tool available to us to determine if there is an emergency. Because Smart911 provided an alternate form of communication through texting, I was able to learn that there was a citizen in need, and where he was located, in order to dispatch help."
Introduced nearly three years ago by Rave Mobile Safety, a software partner for campus and public safety, Smart911 has been adopted in parts of nearly every state and in more than 450 municipalities. It has been credited with helping 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers save lives nationwide.
"We implemented Smart911 in Ionia County just a few months ago knowing it would benefit all of our citizens, as well as help our dispatchers provide more effective and efficient assistance," said Jim Valentine, director of ICCD. "It was fortunate that Smart911 provided assistance even without the citizen signing up for the service, but had he created a Smart911 safety profile prior to the emergency, we would have known his name and vehicle instantly when he called, instead of having to search for it."
Smart911 allows citizens to create a Safety Profile for their household that includes any information they want 9-1-1 and response teams to have in the event of an emergency. When a citizen makes an emergency call, their safety profile is automatically displayed to the 9-1-1 call-taker, allowing them to send the right response teams to the right location with the right information.
With a Smart911 safety profile, responders can be aware of many details they would not have known previously. Fire crews can arrive at a house fire knowing how many people live in the home and the location of bedrooms; EMS can be advised of allergies or specific medical conditions; and police can have the photo of a missing child in seconds rather than hours and more.
Valentine said between 550 and 600 safety profiles have been created for Ionia County to date, and he is pleased to see that information about this new program is circulating in the community. Now it's just a matter of getting people registered.
"At the Ionia Expo (March 15), a vast majority of people would say, ‘I've heard about this. Can you tell me some more?' or ‘I know about this. I just haven't gotten around to signing up,'" he said. "Our percentages raised from 3.5 percent (of households) to just over 4 percent through the end of February. I'm sure we'll have another significant increase as a result of being at the expo."
Ionia County Intermediate School District has spread the word about Smart911, and many local school districts are working with their staff to put out information, he said. He is planning a presentation on Smart911 at Lake Odessa Library, where residents can register themselves via the Internet. The Ionia County Commission on Aging also is making an effort to reach out to one of the most at-risk populations: shut-ins, said Valentine.
"We know the word is getting out. It's just a matter of getting people signed up," he said. "We're apparently one of the highest achieving locations in the short time we've gotten it out there. We're very pleased."
Valentine encourages all residents to create their own safety profile with Smart911 so their information is immediately accessible by 9-1-1 in case of an emergency. Smart911 data is private and secure, is only used for emergency responses and available to the 9-1-1 system in the event of an emergency call.
By Staff Reports
Posted Mar. 24, 2014