2018-05-12 / News

New Smart 911 in Mackinac County Saves Time, Lives

By Jacob A. Ball

Smart 911 is now available in Mackinac, Chippewa, and Luce counties, meaning that residents can file important information about their household with emergency services ahead of time, making it easier for crews to help in an emergency. Information about medical conditions, location of the house, and whether there is a pet in the home are examples. The service is free.

Previously, dispatchers have relied on caller responses to inform rescue crews about the circumstance of an emergency. Bryce Tracy, Mackinac County 911 coordinator, said this presents many problems, such as when rescue crews deal with people who are in shock or who have disabilities and are not able to communicate well. Following the introduction of Smart 911, dispatchers will have necessary information regardless of the condition of the caller. The information is only available if a call is made to 911, and is never shared with an outside party. Police and other first responders do not have access to this information in advance, and it must be relayed to them during an emergency. The new system also allows for text messaging between residents and the dispatcher in the event that a phone call is not possible, or could endanger someone.

Local emergency dispatch is run by Chippewa County in cooperation with Mackinac and Luce County officials.

Creating a Smart 911 safety profile takes about 10 minutes. Information can include a comprehensive list of medical conditions, along with information about transportation, a description of people living at the house, details about location, and whether the resident is at risk for domestic violence. In many situations, Mr. Tracy says, this information could prove useful if the call is disconnected, accidentally or purposefully, and still allow rescue crews to respond. Having information on file about allergies, for instance to latex gloves or certain medications, can help save lives.

For traditional 911 calls, the only information that is provided is a location and name, but pinpointing the location for cell phone calls takes up to several minutes, wasting valuable time during an emergency. With cell phones accounting for 75% of emergency calls made locally, this could delay many lifesaving efforts. Landline phones provide location information immediately, but calls are still limited by the ability of the caller to explain their situation. Mr. Tracy said the dispatchers’ goal is to have crews on their way to an emergency within one minute, and this should become far easier with Smart 911.

In one instance before Smart 911 was implemented, the dispatch center received a call where a man could not speak, so no information was provided. After determining his location, the dispatcher decided to contact local emergency services in case something was wrong. In fact, the man had been trapped inside his home during a fire, and ultimately he was rescued. There was a pet at the house that was saved by the firefighters, as well, but this information was not available to them until they entered the home. With Smart 911, the firefighters would be aware that an animal lives on the property before arriving. This could also help save the life of a young child or elderly person.

Smart 911 is a nationwide program that travels with any user while away from home. This mean that a safety profile created in Michigan will be available to Smart 911 dispatchers across the United States, and local dispatchers can access the profile of a summer cottager or tourist no matter if they created it in Cheboygan or Miami, Florida. In Michigan, the system has been installed in every county in the U.P., and 74 out of 83 counties statewide. Nationwide, there are more than 30 million users.

For more information, or to sign up for Smart 911, visit smart911.com or click the link on the Mackinac County Emergency 911 webpage at mackinaccounty.net.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2018-05-12 digital edition