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Growing Number of Communities Are Using Smart911

A man who called 911 in Nashville recently was too ill to speak to the dispatcher. That could have been a life-threatening situation, says Duane Phillips, director of Emergency Communications Center in metro Nashville.

But because the man had registered with a new 911 database called Smart911 and detailed his health issues, the dispatcher knew what to do.

"Normally, we handle that as an open line and send police to investigate," Phillips said. "Because he had registered with Smart911, we knew he had heart problems, so we sent an ambulance and the police. It probably saved his life."

Nashville is one of a growing number of cities and communities that have adopted the Smart911 system -- a voluntary database that allows people to enter personal information, such as medical conditions and number of children in a house, that gives dispatchers information that could prove critical when they send first-responders out on emergency calls.

Last week, Washington, D.C., became the most recent city to adopt the system.

This year, Arkansas became the first to adopt Smart911 statewide.

The system is now used in nearly 300 communities in 25 states, according to Todd Piett, chief product officer for Rave Mobile Safety, developers of Smart911.

"The more information available to dispatchers the better," said Jim Sierzchula, Baxter County, Ark., Office of Emergency Services director. "It gives us that critical information we need."

Residents are able to create a Smart911 Safety Profile at the website www.smart911.com that is automatically displayed to 911 during emergency calls. They can enter whatever information they like into the database. Photographs can also be included.

There's no direct cost to register, as the program is paid for by the public safety agencies that adopt it.

In Nashville, cellphone customers pay a 911 users fee of one dollar in their monthly bills, and some of that money is now being used to pay for Smart911.

The Arkansas Legislature appropriated $1 million this year to set up the statewide system.

Mobile 911 calls account for 70% of all 911 calls nationwide, according to the National Emergency Number Association.

Traditional 911 systems provide dispatchers with only a callback number and the name of the company providing the phone service, said Brian Tegtmeyer, executive director of the 911 Center in Dupage County, Ill. Smart911 "gives us a bigger snapshot of who they are," he said.

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