Smart911 has only been available in Arkansas since June 2012.
Even though it is relatively new, the program, an enhanced 911 service which can provide emergency dispatch centers everything from allergies to the number of people in a household, is already proving its worth and saving lives, according to communications manager Brian Weindel of Fort Smith Emergency Medical Systems.
"(Patients) can put their medical history in there or their allergies and then we can relay that to crews," he said.
The program, which is free to citizens, allows anyone with a phone number to register for a profile through Smart911.com.
Weindel said citizens could provide as much or as little information as they would like when registering, including home and cell phone numbers in addition to medical conditions and allergies. (Link here to reach the Smart911 registration page.)
Information about a child's allergy to latex proved invaluable recently when a mother called to report a medical emergency involving one of her children, Weindel said.
"Because this mom created a profile, we were able to tell the respondent crews that he was allergic to latex so that they could wear non-latex gloves and prepare before they arrived on scene," he said.
Colleena Dumond, an emergency medical dispatcher and paramedic with Fort Smith EMS, took the call.
"She had like seven children and had information in there for each of them," she said. "In a crisis moment, it's important to have this."
Emergency medical dispatcher Debbie Pitts, also of Fort Smith EMS, said the information could be detailed enough to provide information about family pets.
"You can put pictures in there with animals so in case of a fire, they can look for the animals," she said. "And it works anywhere."
Weindel said residents have added information about everything from the layout of a home to pictures of cars.
He emphasized that while many people would not think to add a photo of a car to their profile, it could be life-saving when crews are attempting to locate a vehicle by GPS coordinates.
"If they are having a diabetic episode and call while driving and if they pass out, the photo of the car can help first responders find it," Weindel said..
According to the Arkansas Senate, implementation of Smart911 was made possible after the Legislature passed Act 213, authorizing spending of $1 million in startup costs and operating costs of $400,000 to $600,000.
Arkansas is reportedly the first to implement the program on a statewide basis, according to Crawford County Emergency Management director Dennis Gilstrap.
He said while the state had been aggressive in rolling out the program to local dispatch centers at no cost, he was worried that the program was not being utilized by enough residents.
"I will tell you that Crawford County dispatch has received only one call that had this information on it," Gilstrap said.
The program is offered at no cost to dispatch centers and residents alike, Gilstrap said.
For citizens who are hesitant to register for a profile for fear that dispatchers and others would be able to access private information, Gilstrap said that simply is not possible.
"The dispatchers can't go in and look at this information unless one of the phones (in your profile) calls 911," he said.
Gilstrap said he knew some residents may not feel comfortable using the Internet, so his office was ready to help.
"My department might be able to get some folks to go out and help them (enter) the information," he said. "They can call my office (at 479-471-3260) and I will make calls to whomever to get some help if they need some help with it."
Weindel reminded registered residents to keep information in their profiles current, which should be easy to do thanks to Smart911's reminder service.
"They require the information to be updated every six months," he said. "They'll email you. If you don't respond, they'll call you."