County officials ask citizens to ‘be smart about safety’
Sussex County launched Smart911 last week, an online service allowing any Sussex County resident the opportunity to create a safety profile for their household.
“Smart911 is a free service which will allow all residents and visitors to Sussex County to provide information about themselves and their families to 911 prior to an emergency,” said Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph Thomas. “That’s significant.”
With the use of Smart911, an individual’s safety profile will display automatically to the dispatcher when 911 is called.
On an individual’s safety profile, one can include specific medical information such as allergies or a heart condition, cell phone numbers, photos of family members and even family pets.
“You choose what information you want us to see,” said Thomas. “Items such as photos and physical descriptions can speed the response time. In missing person cases, there are documented cases where photos of children have been used out in the field and we’ve been able to find those children quickly.
“You can even put your vehicles in this system, as far as the make and model, and the tag number of the vehicle.”
Profile makers may also include such information as bedroom locations, entry and exit points, and emergency shutoffs for first responders.
“It’s such an easy process,” said Thomas of creating a safety profile.
The service is completely voluntary and free to use, allowing users to control their information, which travels with them wherever they may go in the country, provided that the area’s jurisdiction also uses the
On Sept. 11, the County, in partnership with Delaware State Police, the Sussex County Volunteer Firefighters Association and the Seaford and Rehoboth Beach 911 dispatch centers, announced the new high-tech tool designed to give first responders extra information when responding to those in need.
“When you dial 911 from any location in the U.S. that supports Smart911, your safety profile will be immediately available to those 911 dispatchers,” said Thomas. “An example is, we get a lot of folks that vacation in our area from Washington, D.C.
“Washington D.C. is a Smart911 community. If they are over here in Rehoboth Beach and unfortunately have an emergency and have to dial 911, their safety profile will display to the Rehoboth dispatchers, which can be pushed out to the first responders. That’s huge to us because now we have that information right in front of us.”
Information is encrypted and never released publicly, and is only relayed to dispatchers when a phone number associated with a household’s pre-loaded profile calls 911.
“This is part of Smart911’s national database. It is a secure database that they maintain. The only way we access the information is if a person dials 911,” he said. “There is a time limit on the information and after that [has lapsed] the profiles goes and we can’t access it.”
“We do third-party audits every year to ensure the security,” said Jessica Rose, community marketing manager for Smart911. “Additionally, all the information in the profile is at the option of the user. They get to choose what they feel is important. Every profile is going to be a little different.”
Sussex County is providing the new service to the public at no cost to individual users or families. County council included funding for the service beginning in its fiscal year 2014 budget. To-date the county has spent $103,800 for the program. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, the County’s financial commitment to fund the program is $37,000.
“This was a very quick decision to get the two cities on board so that we could get universal coverage,” said Lawson. “To do that, the County picked up some of the tab to have it installed in Seaford and Rehoboth.”
As there are only three call centers in all of Sussex County — Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, which covers the entire county and Seaford and Rehoboth, which cover their individual jurisdictions.
“This is the dilemma we have faced, if you call Smart911 at the outlets in Rehoboth the call comes to the county you’re covered, you’ve got the technology. If you call 911 on the boardwalk in Rehoboth you wouldn’t get the benefits of this technology,” explained Lawson. “No one would realize that until they weren’t afforded the benefits of this technology.”
Lawson said that once the county was aware of the potential lack of coverage, Seaford and Rehoboth Beach were contacted.
“They were very open and gracious to the idea of having 911 coverage. They realized the dilemma we were in. For Seaford our backup, if they weren’t able to provide Smart911 if we had to fold down, that’s a coverage gap. Rehoboth, the epicenter of our tourist industry and where all of our visitors come, they have a very active 911 center during the summer months. If they didn’t have coverage, they knew that would affect the residents and visitors alike.
“When you call 911 you don’t want to worry about these types of details. You want quick service to help save a life. Recognizing that it was a very seamless decision for them.”
Developed by Rave Mobile Safety and launched in 2010, Smart911 is available in more than 1,000 communities in 35 states. In Delaware, Sussex County is the second jurisdiction to implement Smart911; New Castle County has utilized the service since 2013.
To learn more about Smart911 or to sign up, click the Smart911 badge on the Sussex County website at www.sussexcountyde.gov or go directly to www.smart911.com. For residents without Internet service, Smart911 information and registration is available at any library in Sussex County. For those without internet access, officials suggest visiting any county library for assistance.