Smart 911: New service lets people be proactive about emergency planning

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SEATTLE — An estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the United States each year and more than half are done using cell phones.

But, because the data from wireless phones are limited there’s a new option that allows you to get vital information to 911 operators as soon as your call is connected.

“There have been cases in other states where it has saved lives,” says King County’s Enhanced 911 Program Manager, Marlys Davis. She’s talking about Smart 911, a new service that can make a difference when seconds count in an emergency. Davis explains, “With Smart 911 people can register their phone numbers, all of their wireless numbers and numbers they have and associate addresses with them; home, school, work and then when they call 911 that information will display.”

You can also add information like medication you or someone in your home are taking, allergies you may have or even pets in your home; basically any information you would like for emergency personnel to know in case you can’t tell them yourself. Davis continues, “Anyone who has a medical condition or a disability that would prevent them from speaking when they call 911, we especially want to encourage those people to sign up as well.”

And it’s already saving lives. “The most recent was a case in Michigan where there was a house fire and a gentlemen called in, he could not talk and was only coughing and they used the address to find him and he was unconscious on the floor, but they were able to rescue him,” Davis says.

Smart 911 is free and takes about 10 minutes to register your information online. How much data you give is up to you. The system will call the numbers you give to verify and then you are good to go for about six months. Davis explains “People need to keep their information current. If they haven’t gone in and done an update in six months the system will notify them that they need to verify their information and if they don’t do that then the information will no longer display at the 911 center.”

The service is being used in 37 states and 400 communities across the U.S. and right now it’s getting off the ground here. “We’re still working to get it up countywide,” Davis says. “It’s currently in seven of the twelve 911 centers, so it’s available in the city of Seattle and unincorporated King County. People can actually go in and put in their zip code and verify if they currently have the service.”

Because the 911 systems of today were designed for landlines, this was created to fill that information gap left behind by technology. Davis adds, “Smart 911 is trying to help us get back to the data that we used to have on all of the calls when they were all wire lined.”

A good call for when the unexpected happens.

The ability to text 911 is available in Snohomish and Kitsap counties right now and is expected to be in more places in the near future.

CLICK HERE to register your information with Smart 911.