News : New Technology Aimed at Improving Kilgore 911 Service
Kilgore, TX, USA, June, 2018 -- The Kilgore Police Department has introduced new software meant to provide its 911 call center with information that could be critical in an emergency — but it needs residents to sign up.
The city recently introduced Smart911 technology. Now when someone calls 911 in Kilgore, emergency dispatchers can access location details, medical information, descriptions of household members and more if someone in the household has signed up and registered with smart911.com.
"Fewer and fewer homes have a traditional landline," Police Chief Todd Hunter said, "so if a citizen voluntarily participates in this system, their profile will provide us valuable information when they call us for assistance."
Signing up is free, voluntary and available to anyone regardless of location. The service also is available in Longview.
The city of Kilgore also is working on a system that would allow texting into the city’s 911 Communications Center, Hunter said. Text-to-911 service is available in Longview, according to smart911.com.
More than 70 percent of calls made to 911 come from mobile phones, and in most of those cases, the 911 call takers have only the caller’s phone number and a general sense of his or her location, according to the company.
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Smart911 allows people to add key information about themselves and members of their household that might be needed by 911 call takers in the event of an emergency regardless if the call comes from a home phone or a mobile phone. That information could be photos and physical descriptions in case a child goes missing, pets or livestock for which responders should be aware, medical details or locations at the caller’s property such as utility shut-off switches and all access points, according to the company.
Too often, people assume 911 call takers know more than they do, Hunter said, but call takers in fact have "very little information."
However, a voluntary user of Smart911 can create a profile that provides call takers and responders with personal, locator and other information.
"In an emergency, people can become emotional and have a difficult time communicating with us about their needs. Smart911 allows us to have lifesaving information during a crisis when every second counts," Hunter said.
"For example, you have registered a cellular device that your elderly parent uses at home. They begin to have a medical crisis and dial 911 but can’t communicate well," he said. "Our dispatchers can see through the profile set up for this phone that it is registered to someone who has a medical history, so now the dispatchers can send EMS to the address listed."
The Kilgore Police Department had pondered the past two years whether the technology was feasible. Startup costs for the system are a minimum $8,000, and annual maintenance fees cost $5,000.
Kilgore is one of 27 cities designated as a Home Rule 911 Point of Contact, which allows local 911 user fees to come directly to the city. That revenue is used to buy and update equipment and software including Smart911 within Kilgore’s 911 Communications Center, so there’s no additional burden on the city budget, Hunter said.
"We had to ensure we had the equipment that would allow us to install this system," the chief said. "We are currently working on a system that would allow texting to our 911 center. Newer technology has changed how people communicate, so we want to change with them."
There are challenges with the Smart911 system, Hunter said.
The system is completely voluntary, so not everyone will sign up, he said, which is key for people traveling through Kilgore who aren’t familiar with the system.
Hunter said that happens frequently because of the city’s proximity to Interstate 20 and U.S. 259, but he plans to get information out about Smart911 and encourage participation.
"It is used all across the country and the new standard," he said of Smart911. "We also believe in time, other 911 centers in our area will utilize Smart911, so we wanted to be standardized across East Texas."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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