9-1-1 Databases Help Virginia First Responders Serve Citizens Faster
Tuesday, January 11, 2022 | Comments
Finding parties in distress can be a major challenge for first responders responding to an emergency situation.

In Prince William County, Virginia, for example, there were situations in which someone would dial 9-1-1 but that person’s location would not come across and they were unable to communicate their address or location to the call-taker, said Eddie Reyes, director of the county’s Department of Public Safety. In those situations, if the call-taker could not locate that person they would eventually have to drop the call.

“You can only spend a finite amount of time looking for someone before you have to move on,” Reyes said. “Then you have to hope and pray for the best for that person.”

That was a situation that was popping up very commonly and at the time Reyes was working with other state public-safety officials on legislation that would help improve and increase the information available to public-safety personnel.

That legislation, which became law in 2020, requires municipalities in the state to have a database that citizens can use to provide information to first responders so that key information is available to first responders responding to an emergency involving that person.

To help meet that mandate, Prince William County partnered with Rave Mobile Safety and implemented its Smart911 platform to provide that database for citizens. The county’s database allows citizens to provide a variety of information including the names and likely locations of pets, medical information, floorplans and other information that can aid responders in helping that person in the event of an emergency, Reyes said.

The information is then linked to a phone number and when someone calls 9-1-1 using that phone number, the profile is pulled up and the call-taker instantly has all the information that person has submitted at their fingertips.

For example, in the past, a common practice among people with medical conditions to leave key medical information on a magnet on their fridge in case first responders ever needed to help them and they were unable to communicate that information to the first responders themselves, Reyes said. In those instances, firefighters or medical responders would know to check the fridge for potentially critical information. With the database, that information is instantly available to first responders.

One of the biggest challenges for the county has been getting people to opt into the system and provide their information.

“The majority of the public does not think about the 9-1-1 until a time of crisis,” Reyes said.

To help combat that, the county has worked hard to educate the public about the service and made the service easily accessibly on its website to encourage people to sign up and provide their information.

“Anything that can shave off precious seconds of us having to ask you all of these questions is going to make a huge difference in whether or not you live or die,” Reyes said.

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