Imagine dialing 9-1-1 but not being able to speak. For many of my deaf friends, this is a reality. If they were to dial 9-1-1, they would be unable to inform the operator the details of their emergency or more about themselves.
In Illinois, all 9-1-1 centers maintain collected information about people with disabilities under the Illinois Premise Alert Program, but a new program aims to take 9-1-1 a step further. Smart911 is a program that supplies 9-1-1 operators with detailed personal information, including names of family members, photos, allergies, pets and more. A person who is deaf would be able to include information that would help 9-1-1 centers to understand more about their disability and communication needs.
“Information can more easily be shared across municipalities or even across states,” said Todd Miller, Vice President of Public Safety Services at Rave Mobile Safety, the company which provides the service. “Today, the PAP program maintains data locally at a 9-1-1 center, which isn’t helpful if you’re even just one town over and in need of assistance.” The PAP program does not allow for photos, whereas Smart911 allows the user to upload photos of family members, pets and home layouts.
Currently Smart911 is available in 22 states. In Illinois, DuPage county is the first Illinois county to implement this enhanced service. There is currently a bill in Illinois (SB 555) which would highlight Smart911 as an improvement to the Premise Alert Program and make it easier for individual municipalities to bring it to their community. The bill goes up for a vote on May 21, 2012.
“A Smart911 Safety Profile can be tied to any phone number,” Todd explained. “For example, I have registered my mobile number, my wife’s mobile number, and our landline so if any of those numbers dial 9-1-1, we can be better helped. Often times without Smart911, 9-1-1 centers will tie information to a Premise (hence the name Premise Alert Program) which means information may only be made available if I dial 9-1-1 from my home landline. Nationwide about 70% of calls come from mobile phones these days and upwards of 30% of citizens don’t have a landline.”
In an email, Todd explained more about Smart911 in greater detail:
“It is important that citizens understand that when they dial 9-1-1 today, very little is known about them. Without Smart911, 9-1-1 centers only get a phone number and some form of a location. From a landline, a specific address is provided. From a mobile phone, it’s more of a general location which means it may be difficult to locate the caller. For example, if I needed to dial 9-1-1 from my house, I would likely do so with the mobile phone I always have in my pocket. The location provided to 9-1-1 would likely tell them the call is somewhere in my neighborhood which is not specific enough to quickly address my emergency. With my Smart911 Safety Profile automatically provided, 9-1-1 would not only know my home address, but they could also receive a photo of my house, number of occupants, locations of entry/exit points, and any special medical or rescues needs for my entire family. This type of information is generally not known until first responders arrive, which means they may not have the right personnel or equipment,”
Registering a Smart911 is free, private and secure. The information can be updated at any time by the user. The program is funded via surcharges from landlines and cell phones. For more information or to register a profile, visit www.smart911.com. A video outlining more details about Smart911 can be found at: www.smart911.com/movie. The video is captioned.