Smart911 Gives Porter County Dispatchers More Info
VALPARAISO — Porter County remains the only county in the state to offer Smart911, a sign-up service that provides dispatchers with additional information when someone calls for assistance in an emergency.
The county began offering the service in August 2011, about a year after it was first deployed in Nashville, Tenn. It is now available in 30 states, according to a company spokesman.
Paige Connelly, public information officer for Porter County Central Communications, didn’t have any specific numbers on how many county residents have signed up for the service, she said sign-ups have been steady since the program started here.
“I know we’re seeing a number of Smart911 profiles popping up” when someone calls 911, she said.
The program costs the county $28,000 a year, but is free to folks who sign up, Connelly said, adding people only provide as much information as they want — from the medical conditions or allergies of someone living in a household to how many cats they have and their names — and that profile is “completely secure.”
“It’s an enhancement to the traditional information we get,” she said.
If someone calls from a landline, that information includes the phone number, address and the name of the person whose name is on the phone bill, “and on a cell phone, it’s just the phone number,” she said.
With Smart911, dispatchers can find out if children live in the house, or where the gas shut-off valve is, or other information that might be valuable for first responders.
The data also can be a time-saver if a caller forgets to tell a dispatcher something during a 911 call, because extra details are already on file, Connelly said, adding dispatchers routinely confirm information when someone calls in.
“It’s not going to take the place of anything we normally ask,” she said.