Written By Aaron Mueller
Posted on August 13, 2013
During an emergency, every second is valuable.
Van Buren County first responders hope that a new 911 service will shave precious seconds off 911 calls so they can respond to emergencies more quickly.
County officials introduced Smart911, a safety service that allows the county's emergency phone system to store more information about a residence, during a press conference at Van Buren County Emergency Operation Center Tuesday.
The Smart911 system allows residents to create an online safety profile with information about their residence, including number of occupants in the home, medical conditions and layout of the home.
"Currently when we receive an incoming 911 call, we have very limited information," said Undersheriff Gabrielle Rought. "Having more information to better understand the situation is an immeasurable benefit."
The system will especially help with 911 calls from mobile phones, which provide very limited location information, said Jeri Tapper, director of Van Buren County dispatch.
"Between 82 and 85 percent of our calls are from cell phones," Tapper said. "For those who have dropped landlines, this will save time. We won't have to ask as many questions."
Randy Peat, the 911 Advisory Board chairman, said everyone on the board was in support of launching the system, which came at a cost of $20,000. Peat said the service is free of charge to residents who choose to use it.
Peat said residents can also provide photos of children or elderly occupants in the home in the event that they go missing. Providing information about the layout of the house can help firefighters if they respond to a fire.
"If there is a fire, our crews can be advised as to how many residents and even pets may be in the home in need of rescue," said Bangor Fire Chief Derek Babcock.
Tapper said the personal information is only accessible by dispatchers if that caller dials 911.
"It's a very secure system. We can't go in and query the system. So big brother isn't watching with this system," Tapper said.
Peat said the county plans to hold meetings to educate the public on the system and let them know the benefits and that it is secure.
Smart911 is being used in more than 350 jurisdictions across the country. Van Buren County joins Traverse County and Eaton County as the only jurisdictions using the technology in Michigan.
To create an online safety profile and provide information to first responders, visit theSmart911 website.