A new system designed to make it easier for first responders to find you and help you in an emergency will be a “game changer” for 911 operators, said Shelly Meehan, communication supervisor for the Middletown Police Department.
Smart911 is new software being used by Butler County law enforcement agencies. Once people register with Smart911, their emergency information, including exact location, will be automatically displayed to the operator when a call is made to 911.
“These calls can be stressful, tense situations,” Meehan said of people making 911 calls. “Location is so important. The more information we can get the better off we are.”
Response times can be delayed after a 911 call if the person has difficulty giving the dispatcher accurate location information, Meehan said. There are times when the caller directs dispatchers to a neighborhood or a closed business and maybe the dispatcher doesn’t recognize the location because of their age or inexperience, she said.
The increase in cell phones as primary phones can also add to location confusion, said Butler County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Matt Franke.
“The difficulty with wireless phones is they can be any where and we would have no idea where you are or who you are,” he said, adding a majority of calls coming into dispatchers are not the location of the phone, just the location of the cell phone tower.
He said Smart911 “essentially bridges that gap and allows you to build a profile not based up the definitive phone number that we used to have with the location, but now it attaches to the number.”
Butler County subscribes to the service at a cost of $49,500 annually. The cost is based on the number of dispatchers who use the data, according to Franke.
When the county began looking at the Smart911 technology about two years ago they immediately thought of Miami University in Oxford, with students who have cell phones from all over the country.
Franke said the new technology allows dispatchers to understand that a call with a Chicago area code may be coming from a Miami University student in Oxford. That certainly will increase the chance of emergency personnel arriving quicker, he said.
Hamilton County in July launched use of the Smart911 system — three months after 16-year-old Kyle Plush suffocated while trapped in his minivan despite making two 911 calls for help.
“Smart911 could’ve helped save Kyle’s life,” his mother, Jill Plush, said at a news conference when the service was launched, and encouraged people to sign up.
The Smart911 system can also be invaluable for those with medical conditions. Users can choose to add their medical history or disabilities into the system.
The free countywide service allows residents to also provide additional details that 911 dispatchers may need in order to assist them during an emergency. Some of that information may include contact information for family members, specific location in an office building where you work, names and ages of those living in the house, their vehicle description, even any pets living with them.
Franke said safeguard are in place to protect sensitive information, noting dispatchers only have access to the data if that specific number calls 911 and the information is shown only for 45 minutes.
There is no charge to residents for Smart911, and it only includes data they choose to share.