ALACHUA COUNTY, FLORIDA -- In times of emergency, stress is high and the time available to convey crucial information is limited.
But beginning Nov. 4, Alachua County 911 operators will know more about callers than ever before.
Smart911 is a free online service that provides staffers in 911 call centers with specific information to tailor emergency responses to individual needs.
Users can create an online safety profile that includes information on household members, pets, medical disabilities or allergies, and house information such as the location of hidden keys or alarm codes.
These facts equip responders with as much knowledge as possible prior to addressing the emergency. Profiles can be updated at anytime.
“There are at least two incidents where this will be invaluable,” said Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
The first is when someone calls 911 but is unable to speak, she said.
“The other situation is, think of when you are excited or scared, and you try to start providing critical, vital information – you can’t do it.”
The service is free to all Alachua County residents who take the time to register and set up a profile.
Although Smart911 allows access to extensive private information, Alachua County Fire Rescue Communications Bureau Chief Keith Godwin said the company has paid professionals to hack into the website to guarantee trustworthy security and to ensure profiles are only available under certain circumstances.
“Every bit of information is displayed to 911 operators,” Godwin said. “They have that available for 45 minutes or until you hang up the phone or we hang up the phone. It’s safe, secure, we cannot search it and it is only available when you present it to us.”
More than 30 states use Smart911 either statewide or in select counties. Safety profiles cannot be accessed by operators in counties without Smart911 technology, but any emergency call placed in a Smart911 county nationwide will include the caller’s profile.
Smart911 is already available in numerous counties in Florida, including Lafayette, Union, Gilchrist, Levy, and Dixie.
“Having the ability to provide [first responders] with critical information in a timely fashion even when the caller is panicked or unable to speak is revolutionary,” Darnell said. “Smart911 will definitely save lives.”