State, county and city officials gathered at the Lonoke County Courthouse early Tuesday to add their voices to a call begun last week by Sheriff John Staley for residents to sign up for Smart911.
Sign up is done online at www.Smart911.com. Profiles can be as detailed as the caller wishes, it can be limited to only a name and address. Once a profile is completed it should be reviewed every six months.
Sheriff’s office 911 supervisor Christy Kenzel said anyone without a computer at home can find Internet access at local libraries.
State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams called on city officials to sponsor a resolution calling on residents to sign up for the service.
Last week, Staley began a concerted effort to have people sign up for the enhanced 911 service. After a year of the service being available, almost no one in the county has signed up.
With telephone service becoming predominantly through cell phones, the information provided through landlines is no longer available to dispatchers, Staley said.
Williams and County Judge Doug Erwin, Cabot mayor Bill Cypert, Austin mayor Bernie Chamberlain, England mayor Danny Maynard, Ward mayor Art Brooke and other elected officials and department chiefs joined Staley in encouraging use of Smart911.
"Our job, as leaders, is to educate everyone about Smart911," Williams said. "We spent, literally, millions of dollars a year on this program, and it is probably one of the most under-utilized programs out there that can save lives," he remarked.
On average there is one Smart911 profile seen in a month, Williams said. "There should be hundreds every day," he remarked.
Staley has made a concerted effort to have people sign up for the enhanced 911 service because the move to mobile phones. Mobile phones do not provide identification and, most importantly, location of 911 callers.
Kenzel said she believes it is important to assure residents that information in Smart911 is not available to anyone except 911 dispatchers.
"The main idea we want to get out is that [individuals] can limit the information to what they want to give," she said.
Also, the information is not available on demand, Kenzel said. "That information pops up only when a 911 call is made by the caller," she said.
"I think I have seen one profile since we got [Smart911], and we get upwards of 350 911 calls every day," Kenzel said in a previous interview.
Arkansas is the first state in the country to provide Smart911. The debut of the service was announced in a June 2012 state Senate press release.
Williams was one of the legislators who worked to have Smart911 available to Arkansans.
The press release also noted that the effectiveness of Smart911 depends upon residents signing on to the system.
While Staley and Kenzel promoted the safety of the information, Williams promoted the potential benefit for users.
Photographs added to Smart911 profiles can be transmitted to law enforcement agencies nearly instantly, Williams said.
Such availability is crucial for silver alerts or runaway children, Williams said.
Or, should there be a break-in at home, a caller can simply call 911 and say nothing, Williams said.
Bud Dray, a member of the Legislative Task Force on Autism, told of discovering Smart911 when he was collecting an address for each autistic person in the state. He then lobbied strongly for the state to make the service available to residents.
Special needs, allergies, medical conditions, the list is nearly endless of the information useful for emergency responders, Dray said.
Also, the SmartPrepared service was added in September, Dray said.
This, too, is a voluntary participation service, Dray said. When individuals sign up for Smart911, they will be asked if they wish to participate, Dray said.
SmartPrepared can make specific data searches available in times of emergencies, Dray said. The data searches can be invaluable in area emergencies, such as tornadoes, he said.
"Emergency managers can search an area to find out how many wheelchair-bound people in an area that a tornado has gone through," he said in example.
Williams said the service is available but underutilized. "We as community leaders have the responsibility to get the word out," Williams said.