UNION COUNTY — By implementing the “Smart 911” system Union County is a leader in “cutting edge technology” that will enable emergency personnel to more quickly and effectively respond to 911 calls according to Sheriff David Taylor.
In a special presenation to representatives of local churches, businesses, schools, and local governments at Tabernacle Baptist Church Thursday morning, Taylor, 911 Director Linda Mitchell, and reprentatives of Rave Mobile Systems discussed the Smart 911 system and what it will mean to the homeowners, businesses, schools, and churches of Union County.
Taylor began by reviewing some of the history of the 911 system, pointing out that when the system was first implemented in the county, most phone calls were made using land lines. Today, most are made using cell phones and this has created problems that were not forseen when the system was first set up. Taylor pointed out that when a person calls 911, the system gives the dispatcher the location of the cell tower nearest to the caller at the time of the call. He said that based on FCC reqirements, the location of 67 percent of all calls to 911 must be within 164 feet of where the person is calling from while 95 percent must be within 492 feet. If that call is made in an urban area like the City of Union, Taylor said emergency responders could conceivably be sent to the wrong house.
In addition, Taylor pointed out there are a lot of things that can interfere with a cell phone call such as the terrain in the area the person is calling from. He said that if serious enough, the interference and can and does make it hard for 911 dispatchers to hear the caller, find out what their emergency is and determine what agencies to dispatch to the scene.
Taylor said that Smart 911 will address these problems, making it easier for callers to contact 911 dispatchers and convey the nature of their emergency and making it easier for dispatchers to understand them and send the appropriate assistance. He pointed out that Smart 911 reduces the time it takes emergency responders to be dispatched to the scene of an emergency by an average of 11 minutes, a reduction that can make all the difference in the world.
While the reduction in the amount of response time is of lifesaving importance, Taylor said other features of the system make it even more attractive, both to the public and to emergency responders, as well as equally life-saving.
Taylor said that Smart 911 provides each resident with a “Safety Profile” that contains information provided by the resident that dispatchers can use in dispatching emergency assistance. He said that when a person calls 911 their Safety Profile appears on the dispatcher’s computer screen. Taylor said the Safety Profile can contain as much information as the resident chooses to ranging from their name, phone number and address to the number of people in the residence, whether or not they have animals in the house, and medical information including any allergies the residents of the home may have and/or any medication they may be taking. He said while the amount of information they provide is up to them, the more information the resident provides the better prepared emergency personnel will to be respond to a situation when they arrive.
To illustrate this, Taylor referred to an incident in Spartanburg County where a child with autism wandered out of his home and ended up falling into a body of water and drowning. He said that had the Smart 911 system been in place there and had the child’s family chosen to put the information about his condition in the Safety Profile, emergency responders would have known to focus on bodies of water which the child was attracted to and might have found him in time to save his life.
Taylor said that the information for the Safety Profiles will be placed in a secure server that cannot be accessed unless a 911 call is made. He said the information needed for the Safety Profile does not include personnal information like Social Security numbers, birthdates, and driver’s license numbers.
“We’re not asking for your Social Security number, your date of birth, your driver’s license or net worth,” Taylor said. “We want to know what it is going to take to keep you alive.”
Taylor said persons who want to sign up for Smart 911 and set their Safety Profile can go online at Smart911.com.
For those that do not have a computer and access to the Internet, Taylor said they can call 864-429-1620 for help.
Representatives of several churches were present for Thursday’s presentation and Taylor said his office wants to work with the churches to help their congregations get signed up. He said he plans to have representatives of his office and 911 go to the churches with iPads and get the information from the members of the congregation necessary to establish their Safety Profiles.
“We want everybody to have access to Smart 911,” Taylor said.
Another aspect of the Smart 911 system is the “Safety Diagram” which a business, church or school can use to create a diagram of their facilities with information about the location of such things as alarm systems and areas where people congregate.
Taylor said the diagrams, copies of which would be distributed to emergency personnel, would be used by first responders to determine where they should go when they arrive at a location. He said that, for example, if there was an uruly parent at a school, a deputy would be able to use the diagram to know where the individual is and go directly there to address the problem.
Institutions interested in taking advantage of this aspect of Smart 911 can do so online at Smart911Facility.com.
Cutting Edge Technology
Taylor said that by implementing Smart 911, Union County is making itself a leader in the Upstate and the rest of South Carolina.
“We are the second county in the Upstate to sign up with it,” Taylor said. “Cherokee County is the only other county in the Upstate doing this. We’re on the cutting edge of technology in this state.”
Plans are to have Smart 911 fully in place by no later than Sept. 1, but Taylor urged the public to go ahead and build their Safety Profile.
“We can provide this at no cost, the 911 center is able to fund it,” Taylor said. “We have made a giant step in Union County and we hope to have it up and running soon. Go ahead and be getting this into the system starting today. This is for everyone.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.