Anytime you have an emergency, seconds counts. And that’s especially true when you call 911. The faster a 911 dispatcher can gather the information about your emergency, the faster they can start directing resources to your location. But now there’s an even quicker way to get that information to the 911 dispatcher. It’s called Smart911. And it’s now available in San Luis Obispo County. In fact, we are the only agency in the county which has this capability.

Simply put, Smart911 is a free service that allows individuals and families to sign up online to provide key information to 9-1-1 call takers during an emergency. This saves critical time in an emergency, and again as I stated at the beginning of this column, seconds count.

The process is simple. Smart911 allows you to create a safety profile at www.smart911.com for your household that includes any information you want 9-1-1 and response teams to have in the event of an emergency. When you make an emergency call, your Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, allowing them to send the right response teams to the right location with the right information.

It’s important to note, all information is optional and you have the ability to choose what details you would like to include. You can include as much or as little information as you would like. Information may include address, medical and security information. It can also include details about all members of the household, all phone numbers and all addresses including home, work and even vacation homes.

You can also add details about medical conditions, medications, vehicles, pets, emergency contacts, even photos of family members. This service is voluntary, so you decide what information you want emergency responders to know about you when you call 9-1-1. The whole process usually takes just five to 10 minutes to set up. And you can always go back and update existing, or add additional information to your profile.

Once that information is entered, anytime you make an emergency call from a phone registered with your Safety Profile, the 9-1-1 system recognizes your phone number and automatically displays your profile on the screen of the dispatcher who receives your call. So imagine if fire crews could arrive at a house fire knowing exactly how many people live in the home, or if paramedics could arrive on a scene knowing the victim has a lethal allergy, or imagine if Sheriff’s Deputies could have a photo of a missing child just seconds after the child is reported missing. These scenarios are all too real and they illustrate just a few of the possibilities that the Smart911 system is designed for, which we believe will ultimately lead to positive outcomes.

Some of you may be concerned with privacy issues regarding the Smart911 system. Let me assure you, your privacy is important to us and your information is secure. Your information is made available ONLY to 9-1-1 dispatchers and responders and ONLY in the event you call 9-1-1. Your information is stored in databases that restrict access to everyone and your Safety Profile is non-searchable. So you can have peace of mind, that the information you provide is safe and secure.

We encourage everyone to sign up for Smart911 at www.smart911.com but again this is only voluntary, the decision is yours. We believe this new system is capable of so many things, but most importantly it will save time and save lives.