A service giving emergency dispatchers useful information is now available for use in Monroe County, according to the Monroe County Central Emergency Dispatch.
The tool, called Smart911, is free and online. It allows individuals to set up profiles associated with phone numbers to give dispatchers more information on the caller in times of emergency.
It's a national database, so dispatch centers across the country can benefit from its information.
This is especially helpful when considering 911 calls from cellphones, Bloomington Police Department Capt. Steve Kellams said.
“When you pick up your cellphone and dial 911 from your house, I have no idea where your house is,” Kellams said.
Unlike landlines, cellphones do not provide addresses to dispatchers, making it difficult for police to locate individuals who call 911 from cellphones and hang up before providing information about their location.
Going through cellphone companies, police can eventually get the latitude and longitude of a phone, but Kellams said this poses issues if the individual calling lives in an apartment or anywhere where the unit number of their residence would be unclear.
According to the National Emergency Number Association, about 240 million 911 calls are made in the U.S. annually. Around 80 percent of those calls are made from cellphones.
Kellams said community members in Monroe County have been able to text 911 for some time, but a tool allowing phone numbers to be tied to specific addresses is the next step in progressing safety measures.
The states of Arkansas, Michigan and Delaware are three customers that have made Smart911 available statewide, Katharine Dahl, the director of marketing at Rave Mobile Safety said.
Although not all 911 calls will come from the address linked to a given Smart911 profile, Kellams said home information gives police a starting point.
In one case, Dahl estimated Smart911 saved first responders 11 minutes in response time by providing them with the address of a man in a burning building.
From domestic violence incidents to kidnappings, Smart911 is credited by users with expediting help in numerous emergency situations.
Citizens can link home and work addresses to phone numbers through Smart911, but they can also provide information about special medical needs, vehicle details or pets in the home. Emergency contacts and photos of individuals can also be included.
No fields are mandatory, and each user can provide as much personal information as they choose.
Each Smart911 profile must be updated by its user every six months to confirm all information is still correct.
“Citizens that create a safety profile will be better prepared in all towns and counties across the country that support Smart911,” BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff said in a press release from the department.
Profiles can also be deleted by logging into an account and selecting the “Remove Account” button.
The service’s website assure privacy is a priority and information is only made available to emergency dispatchers in the event that 911 is called from a registered phone.
Smart911 is a service offered by Rave Mobile Safety, the same company that runs the IU-Notify emergency alert system on campus and provides other safety tools to universities and businesses nationwide.
The service is currently available in 40 states and continues to expand.
BPD is encouraging citizens to create a profile with Smart911 as soon as possible.
“The reality today is if you call and place an order for pizza delivery, most likely that pizza delivery restaurant has more information than 911," Dahl said, "When push comes to shove, the person that you want to have that information is, of course, the first responders.”
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