Is the low sign-up for Smart911 because of security concerns? Or is it simply that residents do not take time to fill out the online profile. State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in November began a campaign promoting Smart911, he was joined by Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, Sheriff John Staley, and the mayors and chiefs of police of cities in the county.
People changing to cellular telephones over landline, or hardwire, service has prompted the need for Smart911, Williams said when he announced the emphasis. Emergency calls from cell phones do not include the information that dispatchers and first responders rely upon in a 911 call, he said.
But apparently the plea has had little effect.
On Tuesday, Staley said there has been little increase seen in profiles for calls received at the county 911 center.
"I don’t know if we have seen any," Lonoke Chief of Police Mike Wilson said Wednesday. "I don’t know what magic wand it takes to get people to [create a Smart911 profile]. Maybe we aren’t saying the right words, pushing the right button, to make people understand.
"People just don’t realize how much that information helps the police, the fire department, the ambulance," Wilson said.
At the Feb. 3 Cabot City Council agenda meeting, Chief of Police Jackie Davis called on aldermen to consider a resolution supporting Smart911 and call on residents to create a Smart911 profile. Of the 911 calls made to the Cabot center in January, only seven had profiles, he said.
"The tragedy is that people don’t realize how important it is until it is too late," Williams said Tuesday.
Safety is the driving reason for Smart911, but maybe it would help to see it as a money-saver for people who maintain a landline solely for the 911 service, Williams said. Go online, make a profile — giving only enough information to at least flash an address - then shut off the landline and save on one less bill, he said.
A landline 911 call gives that much information, he said.
Considering that the state pays for Smart911 service, "it is vastly underutilized," Williams said. Residents need only create a profile.
In June 2012, Arkansas became the first state to make Smart911 available to all residents rather than have individual cities and counties subscribe to the service.
Sheriff’s office 911 supervisor and communications training officer Christy Kenzel said response to the system has been surprisingly low. "[Smart911] is great for first responders, but it is really there for residents. It helps them the most," she said.ted to be in the millions by now, the last number I heard was around 10,000," Kenzel said Wednesday. "It is kind of disappointing. I have not had a single call pop up a profile," she said.
Davis, at the agenda meeting, pondered whether the lack of signups is due to concern over government intrusion into personal information. However, on Tuesday, Rave Mobile Safety, the company managing Smart911, provided a different view.
Chief product officer Todd Piett said their experience is that lack of awareness of the service is the principal reason for a lower signup rates.
"We have found that on average about five percent of a population will sign up in the first year," he said.
The greatest factor in changing that is education, Piett said. "When the schools get involved, when other groups get involved, is when the [signup] rates change the most," and security issues, generally, have not been a large factor in signup rates, he said.
"People more often wonder about who is paying, or a cost," Piett said. With the state paying for the service, there is no cost to the resident, he said.
Neither is any information made available to marketing services, which the next most often asked question, Piett said. The only time information is released is to support a 911 call, it goes nowhere else, he said.
No financially valuable information is in the profiles. "There are no social security numbers, no credit card information, nothing like that in the profiles.
"Really, the information stored in the profiles is generally available in the public realm anyway," Piett said.
"We have never had a breach in data," Piett said. The greatest security problems are in the users, themselves, and how personal password and other Internet security measures are managed, he said.
Davis said one benefit of having the profile is that the information is made available to any 911 center that has enhanced service. "If you are in the database and you are traveling in another state that has Smart911, [the profile] will show up in that area.
"[Smart911] is a great tool for us," Davis said.
On Tuesday, Staley echoed Davis about Smart911. "In the rural areas, it is invaluable," he said.
Sheriff’s deputies were recently involved in a missing person report that could have been resolved in a fraction of the time, if some information has been immediately available through Smart911, he said.
This, too, is a voluntary participation service; when individuals sign up for Smart911, they will be asked if they wish to participate.
Piett also mentioned a second service, SmartPrepared, that can be included with the individual profiles. With SmartPrepared, specific information is made available to area emergency service managers for use in times of natural disasters.
Only specific information such as special needs and medical requirements are made available, which can be invaluable in area emergencies, such as tornadoes, he said.
In another matter 911 matter, Kenzel said children playing with old cell phones is a continuing nuisance. "We’ve gotten 19 calls from one kid today," she said Wednesday
"Some parents give their kids their old cell phones to play with, but they leave the battery in it," Kenzel said. Take the battery out of any phone that will be given to a child to play with, she said.
"Because one of the first things kids will do is try 911 … That call will go through whether or not the phone is active; it is state law, any cell phone can at any time call 911," Kenzel said.
"You would not believe how many calls we get from kids who are playing with phones that parents think will not make calls. It will make one call. To us," Kenzel said.
To establish a Smart911 Safety Profile, go online to https://www.smart911.com.
Click on "Click here to register," and then follow the directions.
The agreement also reminds that the user has full control over the information in the profile, and only the information to be shared with emergency service providers should be entered.
The individual Safety Profile is made available at the 911 call center when a 911 call is placed and the resident can choose whether to have the information displayed at both the Call Center and for the appropriate responders, "If you explicitly elect to share your profile with both Emergency Service Providers and 9-1-1 Call Centers."