Stoughton Deputy Police Chief Robert Devine Explains How Dispatchers are Now Using Smart911, Which Helps First Responders by Delivering More Information Provided Voluntarily by Residents.
STOUGHTON – Just after 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Stoughton police officers rolled up to a home, searching for a possible intruder after a 911 call. The responding officers already knew who belonged in the home and even had a picture of the family dog because of a 911 profile that the homeowner created.
Smart911 is a safety profile that automatically pops up on the 911 responder’s screen when they receive an emergency call.
Residents can include information about medical conditions, their vehicles, addresses, their pets and even photos of themselves, their kids or elderly relatives.
“When someone is calling 911, they are dealing with the worst day of their life,” said Stoughton Deputy Police Chief Robert Devine. “It’s hard to understand someone when they are hysterical and get the information you need.”
The voluntary program is free for people to join. Smart911 has been in use since 2010 and is now being used in 33 states, said Jessica Rose, a community marketing manager for Raven Mobile Safety, which created the program.
In addition to Stoughton, the technology is already being used in Milford, Framingham, Medford and Blackstone. People include only the information that they want police to have.
“There is all types of different information that you can put in there that will help us help you,” Devine said.
Stoughton school Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi said the School Department paid an estimated $18,000 for the initial start-up cost of buying the Smart911 program and the software.
The Police Department will pay for maintaining it.
“We are strongly encouraging that families register their kids and their cell phones through this program,” Rizzi said.
She said she signed up for it and it only took a few minutes to put in the basic information required. She encourages teachers to sign up, even if they don’t live in Stoughton.
“It will show first responders which classroom a teacher called from, on which floor and in which building,” she said.
The biggest challenge for 911 calls is finding that caller on a map, said Stoughton police Lt. John Bonney. “If it’s from a land line, we have an address, but if it’s from a cell phone we don’t and that’s where this system will help.”
In a town the size of Middleboro, which is 72 square miles, first responders have a large area to cover.
“We’ve recently started using a Code Red System, which is a reverse 911 system for mobile cell phone users,” said Middleboro Selectman Allin Frawley.
The [Smart911] system is free for people to use and lets them receive texts or emails from police, fire, gas, electric and more, Frawley said.
He hadn’t heard of Smart911, but was going to take a look at it.
With a population of 94,000 residents, Brockton’s 911 responders are always busy.
Brockton Police Chief Robert Hayden is also interested in the Smart911 system.
“I am going to talk with the police chiefs in these other towns and see how it’s working for them,” Hayden said.
Medford was the first city in the state to use Smart911. According to Medford Police Capt. Barry Clemente, the system has been used for about a month and already has close to 1,000 people signed up for it.
“The more places that get the Smart911 system, the better off we all are,” he said. “Because anyone who is registered for it and is riding through an area that has it, their profiles will pop up in that jurisdiction if they make an emergency call.”
Karen Hall, director of Stoughton’s Council on Aging, said police will be training Hall’s staff on Smart911, so they can help sign up seniors.
“I think it’s a really good program,” Hall said. “It’s very important for people who are confused or caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s.”
Hall said the council works with police often and put in safeguards to catch seniors before they go missing.
“It’s another way police are using technology to make public safety more usable and more accessible.”
By Jennifer Bray
Posted Mar. 29, 2014 @ 5:15 am
Updated Mar 30, 2014 at 1:31 PM