October 17, 2012 Edition

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LawCo. adds Smart 911 system

Shantelle Prater
Staff Writer

Whenever an emergency arises and a person is required to call 9-1-1, their communication is typically hurried, erratic and error prone.

On average, 2,300 calls are made per month to the Lawrence County Communications Room, 95 percent being from cell phones, according to director Peggy Miles.

Lawrence County telecommunicators play a crucial role during an emergency. With each call, they determine the type of emergency and which emergency personnel are needed to respond.

The state of Arkansas has implemented a new system, Smart911, which allows citizens to create a profile online and provide as much information as they would like about themselves and their family.

"The new Smart911 will provide emergency response personnel with valuable information when people call and are so excited that they cannot provide the information needed," said Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson. "It will be a great tool for all of Lawrence County."

Because every family is different, the new system provides each household with flexibility and personalization, all while remaining secure and private.

"If you call 9-1-1 from your registered phone, your profile will be displayed in the communications room for 45 minutes," said Miles. "We can't pull it up, it only appears when you call."

When registering, household members can provide as much or as little information as they wish.

Specific information can be provided on each resident living in the household, including medical information such as allergies, diabetes, autism and more, along with complications such as limited mobility, deafness or hard of hearing and blindness.

Individual photos may also be uploaded per resident, and additional information can be included such as physical description, age, rescue notes and even the vehicle the individual drives.

"This system is an opportunity for us to improve the level of service we provide the citizens in our county," Miles said. "Its success depends on the citizens' cooperation because it is voluntary."

In addition, Smart911 allows residents to provide unique information about their residence and other valuable information that will be displayed on their profile, such as if the family has a history of domestic violence or has a protective pet.

"If you upload a profile you will be amazed at what all information you can provide," Miles said.

Also, the new system will aid in the communication with deaf of hard-of-hearing callers as Smart911 offers an innovative way to both preload data and communicate via text messages. Operators can also view medical profiles of a confused or disabled caller, such as if a caller has Alzheimer's, and effectively dispatch help to their location even if the resident does not remember where they reside.

"Texting can also be used if a resident is afraid to speak, in case of an intruder," said Miles.

"They can call 9-1-1, then we can communicate through text messages so they can remain quiet. It will also be beneficial in instances if someone is choking or suffering from a medical condition that prevents them from speaking."

Although Arkansas was not the first state to test the new system, it is the first to implement the system statewide.

"I think this new service will really benefit the citizens of Lawrence County and I am excited that we are able to offer it," Dotson said.

As mentioned previously, all information uploaded remains confidential, and is only shared with police, fire and EMS when an individual dials 9-1-1. The system was created by Rave Mobile Safety, a leading provider of safety software solutions, and has received numerous awards already including the Parent Tested, Parent Approved Award, The 2012 Edison Innovation & Excellence Award, APCO People's Choice Award, Mobile Star Award and many more.

In addition to all the benefits the system provides, it's a free service provided by the state of Arkansas, costing Lawrence County zero dollars. There is also no fee for residents to participate.

Miles said County Judge Dale Freeman's support has been essential to the project.

"It is impossible to advance without having a supportive county judge," she said. "He has been very supportive and I keep in daily contact with him regarding this project."

Lawrence County residents can create their profile online by visiting www.smart911.com.

"We are encouraging everyone to tell others about this system. Word of mouth will be the best way to promote the new system," Miles said. "Residents can help others who don't have a computer fill out a profile, or even go to the public library to compose their profile."

As with all software, updates are recommended. County emergency officials ask that all residents update their profile as needed, or at least every six months."

"You will receive either a text message or automated phone call reminding you that it is time to update every six months," said Miles.

Creating the profile takes a matter of minutes, nothing compared to the life-saving outcome it can provide. Without the profile, operators receive very little information, basically your telephone number and general location.

"It has already been proven to be life saving," said Miles. "It's another level of service we can provide for our citizens in Lawrence County."

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