Van Buren County Launches Smart911


Van Buren County is rolling out a new 911 program designed to help emergency responders find cellphone users more quickly.

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Under the new Smart911 program, residents can create a Safety Profile that links a cellphone number to a home address and other information they want dispatchers and emergency responders to have. That information would automatically show up on a dispatcher's screen if a 911 call is made from the cellphone.

Van Buren County authorities say the process can save precious moments in helping responders locate someone experiencing an emergency, especially in an apartment building.

Cellphones -- from which 83% of Van Buren County 911 calls come, according to a release from Van Buren Central Dispatch -- don't provide a specific location, like landlines do. Though dispatchers have the ability to 'ping' a cellphone -- bounce a signal off towers to find the phone -- that process can bring up an incorrect location, as Target 8 found during a 2011 investigation.

And the program allows emergency responders to be prepared when they reach a home.

For example, details listed in the account could be medical, advising paramedics of an existing condition or allergy, or tell fire crews how many rooms a house has and how many people may be inside. It could also include photos that would be made available to police instantly in the event a child goes missing. Vehicle information could help authorities locate a crash more quickly.

"Knowing what kind of situation we are walking into can help us to better plan our response to save time and ultimately lives," Decatur Police Chief David McLeese said in the release. "I would like to encourage all citizens of our County to take advantage of the Smart911 technology that is now available."

Residents are not automatically enrolled in the program. They are urged to go to to sign up.

Nationally, 70% of 911 calls are made from cellphones. Smart911 is available in 350 municipalities in 30 states across the country, according to a Tuesday release. Grand Traverse County already has the system and it is about to be implemented in Eaton County.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


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