Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 1, 2013

Editorial: 911 system can give responders an edge

Grand Traverse County has taken a big step to improve emergency services by adopting an enhanced 911 system that will eventually give emergency operators and responders information about 911 callers that could help provide better emergency medical service and save lives.

Grand Traverse County commissioners agreed to purchase Smart911 software that will let citizens create online profiles that can be passed along to emergency responders; profiles can include medical history, current prescribed medications, emergency contacts and more.

Information on Smart911 profiles goes directly to dispatchers and emergency responders when they receive a call from a number associated with a Smart911 profile. Blair Township medical director Daryl Case said the system makes first responders better equipped to help emergency patients who can’t communicate, such as unconscious car accident victims or stroke victims who can’t speak. “Not everybody can talk to us,” Case said.

And it’s more likely that those who can’t communication are in even greater need of critical care.

To make the system work, individuals will have to create their own profiles, which can include not just medical history but medications people in the house are taking or even pictures of a caller’s house or vehicle. Profiles can tell responders how many people live in a home and their ages and whether someone is disabled or has some other physical issues an emergency medical technician may find useful.

Individuals will be able to control how much or how little information they want to include in a profile, from nothing at all to the number of pets in the house. Smart911 says on its website that 911 profiles are private and secure and are shared only with 911 operators and responders.

It’s going to take some work for county residents to take advantage of the new service, They’ll have to gather the information they want emergency responders to have and then create a profile. Rave Mobile Safety, Smart911’s parent company, will help market the service at no additional cost to the county. The county will look at ways to educate the public, including collaborating with local schools and Northwestern Michigan College.

Smart911 will cost Central Dispatch about $5,000 to install and $14,000 a year; that price reflects a 50 percent discount because Grand Traverse was the first county in Michigan to sign up.Central Dispatch officials said they’ll make cuts elsewhere to come up with the money.

This is a smart, proactive and inexpensive way to upgrade emergency services without buying new equipment or hiring new people and a smart investment of public money.

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