New emergency communications system useful for persons with disabilities

Response from communications officers and first responders greatly improves with the additional information provided by Smart911 systems

Response from communications officers and first responders greatly improves with the additional information provided by Smart911 systems

In an emergency situation, minutes — and even seconds — count.

A new service is now available in several areas of the state to boost the functionality of emergency 9-1-1 calls. Known as Smart911, the service allows you to create a customized profile detailing various disabilities, mobility limitations, medical conditions, allergies, medications, emergency contacts, or special transport needs before an emergency occurs. This information is private and secure and is only shared with 9-1-1 dispatch operators the moment you dial 9-1-1.

From there, data can easily be pushed to emergency first responders — law enforcement, fire rescue, and EMS — to assist them in responding more quickly and effectively.

While the service is helpful to all persons with disabilities, Smart911 has particularly been embraced among those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing because it adds texting functionality to 9-1-1 call centers. While you cannot text 9-1-1 directly, Smart911-enabled call centers are equipped to text back dialed numbers. After voice-dialing call centers, your profile may specify your desire to correspond via text due to existing hearing impairment.

“With the additional capacity of Smart911, the Deaf and hard of hearing community has access to better communication with dispatchers using text,” said Rehabilitation Technology Specialist Daniel Lute, who is also deaf. “It’s a step in the right direction to improving the barrier between persons who are deaf and EMS. Overall, this system will improve the quality of life in emergency situations and reduce the stress on both sides.”

Currently, Smart911 is only available in Autauga, Cullman, Dallas, Lee, Limestone, Montgomery, and Russell counties as well as in the city of Montgomery. In the next 12 months, another dozen local 9-1-1 call centers within the state are looking to add Smart911 functionality.

While not yet available in all areas, all citizens are encouraged to create a Smart911 profile online at Smart911.com in the event that you travel to an area with Smart911 functionality or your location is added to their expanding coverage area. Profiles may include family member data, photos, medical conditions, disabilities, an apartment number, physical address, directions, access codes, mobility limitations, your pets – virtually anything to prepare first responders to better assist you in the event of an emergency. What you choose to add to your profile is up to you.

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