Connecting state and local government leaders
First responders can save time and resources when they have access to resident information such as existing medical conditions or their home layout.
First responders undergo rigorous training to handle all manner of safety incidents, but they can’t be prepared for everything.
For example, emergency medical services staff may respond to a call requesting medical transport, said Donna Kallner, a member of the Wolf River Volunteer Fire Department in Wisconsin’s Langlade County. It’s a routine procedure, and typically a two-person team is all that’s needed.
But what if the call came from an individual who weighs 400 pounds? Two people alone cannot move a person that large, Kallner said, so a call for backup could leave responders waiting for another 20 minutes.
If responders had information about the resident’s condition ahead of time, they could have recruited extra personnel for the mission, saving time and resources along the way, Kallner said.
In an effort to use data for more efficient public safety responses, agencies are exploring solutions such as Smart911, developed by the software company Rave Mobile Safety. The Smart911 suite provides agencies with tools including interactive maps, location data services, live video streaming and other features responders can leverage during emergencies.
Smart911 also includes a separate interface for residents or facilities such as schools or businesses to create free safety profiles where they can enter their personal data such as addresses, building layouts, medications and medical conditions of employees or residents and emergency contacts.
A safety profile will populate a dispatcher’s screen once they receive a 911 call, Daniel Morden, the Central Dispatch Director at Gratiot County in Ithaca, Michigan, said. When a call reaches the dispatch center’s server, a query is sent to Rave Mobile Safety’s private database to retrieve the resident or organization profile.
These data points give responders additional situational awareness to properly allocate resources for an effective public safety mission, he said. Responders cannot access profiles any other time, and the data is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, he added.
Smart911 is a time saver. “Instead of me having to go through a whole slew of questions or roll the dice, you've provided that information to me already,” Morden said.
For instance, a resident with a deadly penicillin allergy can include that information in their profile, so that first responders can prepare appropriate treatments and services. Safety profiles can also protect responders on the scene. If someone calls 911 because a family member is lashing out violently, Morden said, a safety profile may inform police of a developmental disorder that triggers aggression.
With that insight, law enforcement can then “slow [their] roll” and develop a plan to de-escalate the situation, reducing the risk of someone getting hurt.
Location services within Smart911 can also help public safety officers more quickly pinpoint individuals in dangerous situations. In 2021, for instance, one of Ithaca’s public safety telecommunicators received a text to 911 from an individual who had attempted suicide, Morden said.
“They didn’t want their family to find them. … They didn’t want us to know where they were,” he said. Data from the initial 911 text produced a kilometer-wide radius in which the caller could be located. But an integration between Smart911 and the RapidSOS Clearinghouse, which provides a service that maps smartphones’ GPS-enabled locations, significantly reduced the caller’s possible position to tens of meters, Morden said.
Responders were then able to identify a specific building where the individual was and “knock on the window,” he said. “We got the victim the help they needed.”