An online service is now helping Columbia/Boone County Public Safety Joint Communications, the 24-hour 911 Public Safety Answering Point and Dispatch Center, better assist people in emergencies.
The service, called Smart911, is an online database for people in the Columbia area to complete profiles about themselves, their families and their homes, which an emergency response team uses to better and more quickly respond to 911 calls.
The service has been available to Columbia residents since July of last year.
Smart911 is especially convenient for out-of-state college students, said Brian Maydwell, the systems support analyst for Columbia's Public Safety Joint Communications Center.
“When you make a Smart911 account, it becomes a nationwide profile,” he said. “You can fill it out in one state, and if you call 911 in another, your profile appears in that state’s database as well.”
The “SmartSafety” Profile includes four steps, and users may include as much or as little information as they would like. Information the database requests includes type of residence, number of residents in the user’s household—including pets—and important medical information. Users can even upload pictures of themselves and their families. This information is only visible to local 911 and emergency responders.
Responders to 911 calls only know a caller’s phone number and general location when an emergency call is made, according to the Smart911 website. A Smart911 profile provides emergency responders with more precise information and can be especially helpful when the caller is unable to speak in an emergency situation, such as an allergic reaction or heart attack.
The service also saves time when emergency responders need to issue an Amber Alert. If the Smart911 user provides critical information about his or her children as well as a photograph, the police can help the family more rapidly and begin their search for the missing child.
The profile also enables users to provide information about special needs, such as disabilities, disorders or non-English-speaking callers, as well as details of a restraining order when a domestic dispute must be handled.
The service is free to the community and is only used when the profile user dials 911. Of the 1,200 911 calls received in Columbia each week, between 10 and 40 Smart911 profiles are used to help in an emergency, Maydwell said. There are roughly 3,000 registered users in the area.
When someone creates a “SmartSafety” Profile, Smart911 automatically delivers information in the profile with any 911 call placed in Boone County to the Emergency Communications Center where the call takers work, according to the City of Columbia’s website. The information is also dispatched to police, the fire department and emergency medical services.
Some of the most important information people can provide on their Smart911 profiles is directions to their houses if they live in areas that are difficult to navigate, Maydwell said. Other important items to include are critical medical conditions.
In an emergency where timing can be the difference between life and death, Smart911 can prove very useful. A 30-second shorter response to a heart attack increases survivability by 20 percent, according to the “Improving EMS System Performance” section of the 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Report.
"In a situation where seconds count, being able to provide the operator with other critical information about you and your family the instant your call is made can be the difference between life and death," the Smart911 website states. "Smart911 was created by leaders in the fields of privacy and information management with the firm belief that providing 911 with additional timely information about you when you call can help speed and enhance the effectiveness of an emergency response."