City of Chicago officials are encouraging residents to fill out safety profiles to better prepare first responders who are going out on 911 calls amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Smart 911 safety profiles would include addresses, phone numbers, medical and mental health conditions, family members, even pets. During the pandemic, registrants can also provide quarantine status information, such as who is in isolation and who is at risk in the household.
“The more we know ahead of time, they will be able to put on their protective gear necessary to respond to someone who may have these conditions,” said Zachary Williams, OEMC’s Director of Information Systems.
Dozens of first responders in Chicago have tested positive for coronavirus. A Chicago police officer who was diagnosed with COVID-19 died last week.
Smart 911 launched in September 2018, but the roll out has been slow. NBC 5 reported about 11,000 people were registered as of last April. Today, the Office of Emergency Management said about 20,200 users had signed up, with 4,200 coming online since Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s call to action late last month.
Williams said this year alone, OEMC is averaging over 130 calls per week from citizens who have created Smart 911 profiles.
Here’s how the program works:
Chicagoans can create their profiles by visiting Smart911.com. Once there, they can fill out as much or as little information as they are comfortable providing.
If a person with a safety profile ever calls 911 from the phone number associated with the account, that pre-loaded information will be available to dispatchers immediately.
“Every second counts in an emergency. What this program does is shave off time,” said Chicago dispatcher Andrew Johnson.
Officials said 80 percent of calls to 911 come from cell phones.
“Although we get an exact location with landlines, we don’t get an exact location when you’re calling from a cell phone,” said Williams. “At best, we’re getting a block range. And at worst, we could be getting a block range that’s five blocks away.”
Smart 911 profiles allow callers to identify their home address, as well as other locations they visit frequently. Residents can also detail that they speak another language or are deaf or hard of hearing, which can save dispatchers time finding a translator or immediately initiating text conversations.
The city has fine-tuned its SMS texting capability with callers from mobile phones, which dispatchers said has been invaluable in hostage and domestic situations.