In an emergency, every second counts, and in Sandy Springs, Ga., first responders often faced delays because of limited 911 caller information. With 70 percent of 911 calls coming from cell phones, the first responders' ability to identify basic information like a caller's home address and name was becoming difficult. They also had trouble communicating with hearing-impaired callers and responding to individuals in situations where it was dangerous to speak.
In August 2010, the Chattahoochee River 911 Authority, which serves Sandy Springs and neighboring Johns Creek, implemented Smart911, a service of Framingham, Mass.-based Rave Mobile Safety that provides 911 operators with supplemental information that callers have previously supplied in case of a 911 call. Residents and non-residents can sign up for the free program on Sandy Springs' website, www.sandyspringsga.org, or anyone can register for the free national database at www.Smart911.com.
When a registered caller dials 911, dispatchers can tell if they are calling from a cell phone or landline. In addition, dispatchers have access to information about the caller such as children's photos, medical conditions, disabilities, home addresses of cell phone callers and other rescue-related information. For those with a family member with Alzheimer's, autism or who is deaf, 911 dispatchers know the caller possibly has that condition without having to rely on verbal communication.
If a registered user calls 911 to report a fire, dispatchers can tell fire fighters how many people live in a house, including pets. Additionally, if a registered caller lives in an apartment building, fire fighters will know the address, the floor and apartment number.
The system also supports AMBER Alerts. If parents have submitted their children's photos to the Smart911 system and call to report a missing child, Sandy Springs police will have the photos instantly to begin a search. Soon, residents will have access to Smart911 SMS, allowing call takers to initiate a SMS text chat with callers, which is helpful for deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired callers, as well as those in situations where audible conversation is dangerous.
Since August, more than 10 percent of Sandy Springs residents have completed Smart911 profiles. As more households participate, responders expect to dramatically improve outcomes for residents.