By Rikki King Herald Writer
EVERETT — A little bit of early information can go along way in an emergency.
That’s the idea behind a new service in Snohomish County that allows people to give 911 dispatchers information about their households before an emergency occurs.
For example, if a family has a grandfather with dementia, they could put his photograph into the emergency response database in case he goes missing.
Or provide the code to a gate that blocks a long driveway.
Or a description of an autistic child with unpredictable behaviors.
The service is called Smart911.
The rollout is Tuesday, to coincide with National Night Out.
Police, fire and dispatchers can only access the information after someone from the household calls 911 in an emergency, officials said.
“I think this is a great program,” Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said during a news conference Monday. “I’m excited to see the results.”
Through the program, emergency officials also can use text messages to communicate with people during a 911 call. Texting with 911 is not otherwise available yet here.
The three-year contract with Smart911 is through SNOPAC, the dispatch center serving Everett and most of north and east Snohomish County. SNOCOM, the dispatch center serving urban southwest county, is not participating at this time.
Officials are encouraging anyone who lives, works or travels in Snohomish County to participate, SNOPAC director Kurt Mills said.
People can create an online profile at www.smart911.com.
The information provided to Smart911 is kept secure, Mills said. Emergency responders only have access to an account for 45 minutes after a 911 call.
It is free for people to participate. The contract costs SNOPAC $60,000 a year.
Other examples of information provided could be pictures of children, in case of an Amber Alert, medical details for those who live in the home, including details about disabilities, and where extra keys are hidden. Another example would be if there are oxygen tanks in the home.
“Just those little details that can be very, very important,” Mills said.
Information on pets also can be shared.
People can decide to give 911 permission to ping their cell phones — something dispatchers normally can only do under certain strict emergency circumstances.
About 70 percent of 911 calls now come from mobile phones, said Crystal Ayco, the SNOPAC operations coordinator.
The texting available via Smart911 is aimed at those with speech or hearing problems that make phone conversations difficult, she said.
Remembering — and communicating — key details can be dicey for folks during an emergency, even for something simple such as a license plate for a stolen vehicle, said Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.
“It just makes the information faster to get out if we need it,” she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.