Smart911 Program Allows Responders to Access Information Quicker

Smart911 Program Allows Responders to Access Information Quicker

Sweetwater County Combined Communications Dispatch employees David Halter, Katie Olmstead, and Anji Hook are encouraged residents to sign up for Smart911. SweetwaterNOW photo

SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Smart911 program is changing the way the Sweetwater County Combined Communications Dispatch Center handles its 911 calls.

Smart911 is a way for residents and business owners alike to create a profile for emergency responders to review while they are on a 911 phone call. The great part about Smart911 is residents can add as much or as little information to their profiles as they want. It’s all up to them.

All it takes to get set up is to visit the Smart911 website or app. Once on the site, residents can include information such as their address, phone number, email address, date of birth, and even include a photo. The information can be as detailed or as basic as a resident wants it to be. For example: the website allows the resident the option of adding photos and information on all family members in each household. There’s even an area to include pet information.

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While completing a quick registration can take about 5 to 10 minutes, residents could spend up to an hour adding all sorts of information to the website if they want to. From lists of allergies and medications, to vehicle and home descriptions and codes to unlock the garage, there’s a lot to add if a resident wants to. Combined Communications IT Director David Halter said for those who don’t have internet access a friend or family member can sign them up.

Sweetwater County started the Smart911 service back in 2015 making them a charter member. Since then, a little more than 600 households have signed up for the service and 14 facilities are on file. Currently, 66 million residents nationwide are registered under this service. While the county is happy to have those who have signed up, they would really like to see more.

“We were the first in Wyoming to get it,” Halter said. “We would love to see those numbers sky rocket.”

“For me, one of the biggest reasons why I’m such an advocate of Smart911 is it allows us to get people to them quicker,” E911 Communicator Anji Hook said.

Once someone calls 911, if they have a Smart911 account all of their basic information will pop up on one of the dispatcher’s screens along with any additional information they provided. From there the dispatcher can confirm the information. Instead of asking “what’s your name” “what’s your address,” the dispatcher can confirm who is talking on the phone and if the address listed is where they are calling from. Sometimes when someone is calling in an emergency, they have a hard time recalling basic information such as their address, phone number and sometimes even their name.

Oftentimes, if a child is calling 911 they may not know their address, phone number, or what their parents names are if they are too young.

One example of how Smart911 worked for a local woman, according to E-911 Communicator Katie Olmstead, was when she lost power and was afraid her oxygen was going to run out because it was connected to electricity and she didn’t know how long her battery would last. Due to a vision problem, the woman physically could not see her phone and was seeking help from 911. Because she had a Smart911 profile, dispatchers were able to connect her with one of her sons because he was in her profile as a contact. He was able to help her.

Hook said a missing child case where time is of the essence, could also be sped up if the child’s information is already in a Smart911 profile. She said if they have their child’s photo in there, then officers are not waiting on a photo to put out a description of the child. All they will need to obtain is a recent description of what the child is wearing.

Even 30 seconds can mean the difference between a good and bad outcome.

~ E-911 Conmmunicator Anji Hook

Olmstead wanted to make it clear that the information stored on the Smart911 database is secure and is not searchable. The only time that information is available to emergency responders is when a 911 call comes in from a Smart911 subscriber.

Halter said not only can residents fill out the information for free, but so can local businesses. In the business profile, business owners can include details of the building’s layout, where facilities such as power and gas are located, and who their after-hour contacts are. They can also include where the alarm is located at and what the code is to shut it off.

The important thing to remember with either profile is making sure it’s up to date. One instance where this wasn’t the case cost a local hotel a lot of money. Emergency responders received a phone call about a hotel room that was flooding and after calling all 7 people on the emergency contact list they discovered none of them worked for that hotel anymore. That cost a lot of time and as a result a lot more flood damage occurred.

If the business has more than one building, it would be important to include that information as well that way first responders know which building to go to. A good example of a place with multiple facilities in a large area would be the Sweetwater Events Complex. If someone calls 911 and just says they are at the Event Complex, that doesn’t really narrow it down.

Profiles should be updated every time a change is made at a business. The same is true for residential homes. One tip the dispatchers had was making sure children’s profile photos are updated at least once a year. A good time to do that is when they get their school photos done because they are handy.

Another example, Olmstead gave on how the Smart911 helped first responders was when there was a house fire. Responders knew how many people and pets were in that house because the family has registered under the program.

For dispatchers keeping the line of communication open is imperative. Sometimes in rural Wyoming areas, residents can’t make a phone call, but they can send and receive texts. While it’s not an ideal from of communication, it’s better than nothing. The dispatchers said this is important to remember if you are in an emergency situation and don’t know what to do.

Olmstead, Hook, and Halter are encouraging Sweetwater County residents and business owners to sign up for Smart911. For more information or to sign up for Smart911, click here.