When Owensboro resident Cindy Curtis heard about the Smart911 service provided by Owensboro-Daviess County combined dispatch, she thought registering with the service would be a good idea.
When the time came that Curtis called 911, dispatchers knew where she was and how to find her home without her doing much more than dialing the phone.
"All I would have to do is get 911 on the line and they would be able to take it from there" with the information Curtis provided Smart911, Curtis said.
The Smart911 system is free and relies on residents to voluntarily provide information about a number of things, such as the number of people in their family, if anyone in the family has a specific medical condition and the physical description of their home. In an emergency, a dispatcher will be able to provide that information to officers, firefighters or EMTs, which will better prepare them to meet the needs of the situation.
Curtis, a dog trainer, said after she registered for the service, she was awoken at 3 a.m. one day by the sound of dogs barking in the yard of an adjacent house.
"Those dogs were being very aggressive," Curtis said. "There was a horrible commotion and the (home) next to me doesn't own any dogs."
Curtis looked out her doors with a flashlight but couldn't see what was happening. "I decided the best bet was to call 911."
Curtis called 911 on a cell phone. Unlike a land line, a cell phone doesn't provide much information to dispatchers, other than the location of the tower through which the call was routed and an approximate location of the phone — within a radius of 150 meters.
Most 911 calls made in Daviess County come from cell phones. Paul Nave, director of combined 911 dispatch, said 81 percent of all 911 calls in the county come from cell phones; nationally, 70 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones.
"Just 10 or 11 years ago, it was the total opposite -- 80 percent (of 911 calls) were from land lines and 20 percent were from cell phones," Nave said.
Because Curtis had registered with Smart911, dispatchers immediately knew her address. "As soon as I called and said who I was (the dispatcher) knew exactly where I was. I was so impressed, she already knew, without my having to say, ‘here's my address,'" Curtis said.
Police arrived only a couple of minutes later. Next door, officers found two boxer dogs trying to claw and tear their way into a cage where a neighbor had placed two kittens, Curtis said. Officers found the owner of the dogs and the incident was resolved.
"It wasn't a life and death situation, but if it had been they would have all the information," Curtis said.
Curtis said she has provided information to Smart911 about the number of dogs in her house, other contact people to call if Curtis can't be reached and even some medical information.
"They have my veterinarian's information in there," Curtis said.
Registering with Smart911 was easy. "I found it very easy to navigate and I'm not tech savvy at all," Curtis said.
"I have a number of single friends and I've encourage all of them to sign up."
Nave said the information provided to Smart911 is confidential and cannot be accessed by dispatchers until a person calls 911. About 2,000 people have provided information to the Smart911 service, Nave said.
"If someone calls and they can't talk due to a medical condition, this will immediately give us the information to save their life," Nave said. During a crisis situation, a person may have trouble providing information such as an address; with Smart911, the dispatcher will have that information immediately.
"If (a caller) is hysterical or distraught because of the circumstance, this is going to help them," Nave said.