News : Smart911 System Now in Sussex
Sept 15, 2014 -- Smart911, an online safety profile for the public to provide critical information to 911 emergency responders, was rolled out last week in Sussex County, making it the second county in the state to participate in the high-tech program.
The new service is free to all residents in Sussex County who create a safety profile for their households containing pertinent information, such as medical conditions, blood types, the number of members in their household, mobile phone numbers, who to reach in case of emergencies, addresses and even photos. That information will then be loaded into the system and displayed on a dispatcher's screen whenever 911 is called.
The information is encrypted, so it is secure, and only stays active on the dispatcher's screen for 45 minutes.
"Anybody in the U.S. can sign up," said Joseph Thomas, director of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center. "So, if you live in another community where Smart911 is not available, you can still enroll so that if you travel and you're on vacation, your information would be transmitted if you call 911."
By creating a safety profile before a crisis arises allows people to plan ahead when they are calm and can think clearly, said Michael Vincent, former chief of Seaford Fire Co.
In emergency situations, dispatchers routinely ask questions during a chaotic time for the caller that can now be easily answered, quickly displayed and give details for a emergency responder.
Sussex County has spent $103,800 on Smart911. Over the next five years the service could cost nearly $260,000, said Todd Lawson, county administrator.
Call centers have been installed in Seaford, Rehoboth Beach and Georgetown. The county, however, will pick up the tab for Seaford and Rehoboth until fiscal year 2015, Lawson said.
According to Jessica Rose, company spokeswoman for Smart911, Sussex County is the seventh location in the country to launch the program this month.
New Castle County started using the enhanced 911 service last summer.
Jeff Miller, New Castle County's chief of emergency communications, said the bulk of the 911 callers typically use the Smart911 service in medical situations.
"That's where we get the bang for the buck," he said. "We've seen a great benefit to it."
All of the medical and fire calls in New Castle County go through the county's dispatch center, which also dispatches for five of the seven police agencies in the county.
The only Delaware county not using the service is Kent.
"Make no mistake, I think the Smart911 is a great product," said Colin Faulkner, Kent County's Public Safety director. "But to maintain continuity and ensure we're always able to communicate on the same line, it needs to be state-run. We have discussed it in the county, but our thought is, it needs to be led by the state of Delaware."
Faulkner said different vendors are always coming up with new and improved products, which, down the road would have to re-bid. In a competitive market, the two counties now using Smart911 may decide to choose a different, more cost-effective vendor.
"They will re-bid in a few years, and it may not be Smart911," he said. "That's why it needs to be a state-run program."
Greenwood Police Chief Mark Anderson sees advantages in using Smart911's texting and call capabilities.
"If someone calls in a domestic situation and they can't communicate because the aggressor happens to be close by," said Anderson, providing an example. "If the person has texting, we can get to that person and lend assistance."
Unlike a traditional 911 call, responders are able to locate and communicate with callers even when a call is dropped. The command center can initiate communication with a caller, even if callers have not signed up for Smart911.
Residents without Internet service can sign up at any library in Sussex County.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Smart911 is a free service used by public safety agencies across the country to enhance communication and response for their community. It can be used by 9-1-1 agencies to quickly send first responders to the location of an emergency with more information, by emergency management to better plan for and respond to disasters, and by municipalities to send emergency notifications to their citizens.
Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2014