Tracy Clark understands both sides of a frantic call for help. As a dispatcher for Grove City police, she's talked callers through fires, crashes and medical emergencies. And as a mother of twin sons with autism, she's panicked when one of them is inconsolable or can't be found around the family home.
Tracy Clark understands both sides of a frantic call for help.
As a dispatcher for Grove City police, she's talked callers through fires, crashes and medical emergencies.
And as a mother of twin sons with autism, she's panicked when one of them is inconsolable or can't be found around the family home.
Having a profile of her family in the hands of police or firefighters, she believes, will be a comfort.
That's the aim of Smart911, Grove City's next-generation 911 system. Yesterday, the city became Ohio's first to roll out the system, which already is used by 400 U.S. municipalities.
Instead of having a dispatcher ask frightened or hysterical callers questions, a profile of the caller pops up that may include medical details, descriptions of the caller and where they live, and even photos.
Callers create their profiles or those of loved ones, including those with special needs, such as the young, elderly or ill, by logging onto a website and entering the information.
Anyone can go to www.smart911.com to create a profile, but 911 calls must be picked up in a participating city for the profile to be activated.
Clark, 41, created profiles of her boys, herself and her husband. If she were to call 911, dispatchers would know that her 3-year-olds don't speak, use certain medications and have moles, one near an eye and the other under a foot.
Firefighters and police would instantly have details that might take precious minutes to obtain otherwise.
"I wouldn't need to frantically tell them they're nonverbal, they tend to wander," Clark said. The 911 profile, she added, "takes a lot off my mind."
"During an emergency, this can save time and ultimately lives," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said in a written statement.
Grove City Police Chief Steve Robinette said the service "is especially important in situations when the caller is panicked or unable to speak."
Smart911 is free to all Grove City and Jackson Township residents. Personal information is not shared with anyone other than dispatchers, and then only when a caller initiates it.
The city spent $7,500 for its first-year contract.
Columbus isn't ready to follow suit.
"It didn't make any sense for Columbus getting involved with it," said Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Patrick Ferguson. "It made a lot more sense in smaller communities than larger communities where people frequently move and change phone numbers."
Columbus may reconsider as the technology changes, Ferguson said.
Nashville is among the larger cities using it, said Michelle Peterson, assistant director of the Metropolitan Nashville Emergency Community Center. More than 50,000 profiles, about 8 percent of Nashville's population, have been created.
As the population ages, the information will become "like an insurance policy," said Ken Strong, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association. "It's a tremendous leap forward."