Funding for "Smart 911" could soon be cut, district officials push for people to sign up

Funding for "Smart 911" could soon be cut, district officials push for people to sign up
Smart 911 homepage (Credit: Smart 911)

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Smart 911 was introduced to Forrest County in early 2015 as a way for emergency dispatchers to know information about callers. Since then less than 1 percent of the county has registered.

Less than 1 percent is roughly 800 people in Forrest County, and that low of a number could cause the program to be cut.

"This program costs approximately $20,000 a year, and we've only got less than one percent of the county that's participating in it, so it's hard from a budget standpoint to continue spending this amount of money," said Forrest County Emergency Management Director Glen Moore.

Moore would like to see the number increase upwards of 20 percent to prove beneficial to the county.

"When you dial 911 that additional information pops up in another window on the screen for the dispatcher to see, and it gives them information that they can pass on to the responders," said Forrest County EMA 911 Coordinator, Debbie Windham.

That information is found in profiles, which can be created at www.Smart911.com .  It allows users to connect their mobile or land line phone, so that when a 911 call is placed, the profile automatically appears to the dispatcher.

As much or as little information can be provided, depending on how the user dictates the profile settings.

"You can even be as specific as how many kids you have, pets in a house and as detailed as what allergies you have or health issues of other family members," Windham said.

There is also a text message capability, if communication is limited due to physical limitations, poor cell service, or a dire situation. The dispatcher will send messages directly to the user's phone, and the user can respond to provide the dispatcher with information to assist in emergency response.

"First responders in the area take their job very seriously, so what we want to do is, you know go to the saying of help us help you," said City of Hattiesburg Public Direction Chinika Hughes.  "Basically we want to be able to increase our response time by getting to you, in hopes of saving your life."

The service is free to the public, and the whole cost is covered by the EMA District's budget.

"This is something that really can benefit the county, especially the first responders and the patients that call 911 when they need, it can improve response times and help our responders get the medical attention or meet the emergency needs as soon as possible," Moore said.