Smart911 app helps Yakima first responders move faster

Public safety dispatchers say app saves time in an emergency, when seconds count

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Yakima County public safety dispatchers are using a new app to make 911 calls more efficient and are asking community members to get involved.

Residents can download the Smart911 app for free and input personal information that will help dispatchers find their house, contact them in case of an emergency and help prepare first responders to assist residents in a crisis.

“It can be really useful if for some reason you’re not able to talk on the phone or give us all the information that we need or you just don’t remember because you’re in the middle of a crisis,” said Nicole McInnis, a public safety dispatcher at SunComm911 Communications in Yakima County.

While law enforcement’s Spillman record management system retains information from previous contacts with police, when someone calls 911, it takes dispatchers time to piece all the information together. With Smart911, the caller’s information automatically appears on the dispatcher’s screen.

“Some examples include medical conditions, if your children have special needs,” McInnis said. “We are definitely going to send people regardless, but it helps to know what kinds of help may be needed.”

Officers can verify addresses and identities if someone attempts to prank call the police with a false crime report or use contact information connected to an address to get ahold of a homeowner to let them know about an emergency on their property.

If someone calls 911 in the middle of a medical emergency or a violent attack and is no longer able to speak, dispatchers can see the address associated with the caller’s phone number and send first responders immediately. It also allows dispatchers to send a text directly to the person calling, rather than waiting to receive a text.

“It gets help to the person who needs it quicker and it gets help potentially to the next person calling 911 because the call taker’s not tied up looking multi layers of our records management system to try to help the first person,” Yakima Police Capt. Shawn Boyle said.

In case of a house fire, firefighters can see how many people live in the home, whether there are any pets inside or even locations of various obstacles that could impede their ability to get inside the home.

If someone at the home has a medical condition, disability, special needs or mental health concerns that first responders should be aware of when responding to an emergency, people can include that information in their Smart911 profile.

“If you can let the officers know, it would be safer for them responding and safer for the people that they’re going to be contacting on the other end to be able to provide the best service to them with minimal intrusion into their personal lives,” Boyle said.

People can input as little or as much information as they want, including information about the household and its members, medical conditions, medications, vehicles, pets, service animals, allergies and anything else

The Smart911 app can also notify users of weather, traffic, crime and other emergencies happening in their area.

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