By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
“Where is the emergency?” has become the first question area 911 operators ask as more and more emergency calls come from cellphone users.
This is because within a minute the call is answered the cellphone will relay a location back which can be anywhere from where you are actually standing to a mile or more away, said Kent County Sheriff Department Emergency Communications Center Manager Matt Groesser.
“Often the case is the person calling is in a very intense, stressful, panicky situation and being able to relay details such as location can be difficult,” said Karen Chadwick, communications manager for Grand Rapids Central Dispatch.
Today, at the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the Kent County Dispatch Authority — chaired by Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt — announced that it would be adapting the Smart911 program where individuals can create an online safety profile for their household. When a citizen makes a call that profile will automatically display the citizen’s Safety Profile to the 911 call taker.
“This profile provides key details about you and your family to those taking our 911 calls during an emergency,” said Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma during the press conference that representatives from various law enforcement agencies throughout Kent County including the Kentwood Police Department and the Wyoming Department of Public Safety attended. “These things might include physical descriptions of your house, your family members. It might include the type of vehicles you drive. It also might include special medical conditions that you or your family might have.”
Other details residents may provide are the pets in the home, the layout of the home and shut off for gas and electricity. It is the type of information that various emergency responders might need, Stelma said.
Area residents should go to Smart911.com, click the “Sign Up Today” button and proceed to fill out the information. Sign up is free, private and secure with 911 call takers and responders only able to see the information when a call is made. Once the call is complete, the information disappears from the call taker’s and/or responder’s screen.
Powered by RAVE Mobile Safety, Smart911 is currently available in 40 states and more than 1,500 municipalities. Last November, Lt. Governor Brian Calley and other Michigan government officials announced a statewide initiative to make Smart911 available to all residents. While free to residents to sign up, the cost to Kent County for the service is around $40,000 which is being paid for by a grant for the first year.
Holt said he sees the City of Wyoming doing similar promotions as the state on its Facebook page, website and through other media. Officers throughout the county will have materials available to distribute with the goal of encouraging residents to sign up. Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll said he already is planning to include Smart911 information that he provides to residents, especially older citizens.
“It’s a good idea,” said Kentwood Police Chief Thomas Hillen. “Having that type of information such as a pinpoint of location is quite a big help in responding to an emergency.”
“The additional information provided in a Smart911 safety profile can save critical minutes in an emergency and help responders offer better services,” Holt said. “All information is optional and each citizen has the ability to choose what they would like to include.”
Multiple phones can be connected to one address as well as a single phone line can have both home and work addresses assigned to it. Also, the program works with all types of phones from traditional land lines, VOIP, cable and mobile.
For more information about the program or to enroll, visit Smart911.com.