Friday, November 01, 2013

TOP STORY >> Smart911 can save lives

Leader staff writer

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams will be at the Lonoke County Courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to promote Smart911, a new service that provides vital information to emergency responders and helps save lives.

These days, many people have disconnected their landlines and use cell phones instead. So their addresses don’t pop up on 911 screens when they call for help.

The new system, paid for with a $1 million federal grant, provides the addresses of cell-phone users and alerts emergency workers to the callers’ health issues. Last year, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to make Smart911 available to all residents.

Williams calls Smart911 an excellent service that will alert paramedics to health conditions that would let them know, for example, that a patient is likely in a diabetic coma or has dementia and can’t explain what’s happening.

The only problem is, very few are signing up for it, he said. Williams compared the response to Smart911 to the response of the CodeRED weather warning system that was implemented in Cabot while he was mayor. That system gives warnings about flooding, thunderstorms and tornadoes, but it is also under-utilized.

CodeRED is available only to those who provide the system with their phone numbers. Smart911 is available only to those who go online and build a profile with phone numbers, addresses and health conditions.

Williams say the Tuesday event is a re-rollout of the service. He said in a phone interview this week that he expects to be joined by County Judge Doug Erwin, Prosecutor Chuck Graham and Sheriff John Staley.

The sole purpose of the event is to bring attention to the service and get people to go online and fill out a profile, but Williams said putting all that private information online could be what is holding the new system back.

The information will only be used to provide emergency care, he said, but many may believe it could be accessed for other purposes.

To bring attention to the new system, Williams said he is talking to schools about sending information home in students’ backpacks. He also intends to ask the law enforcement class at Cabot High School to design a card about the system that police officers could give out when they make traffic stops.

When this reporter pointed out that flashing blue lights might not be conducive to communication about a new product, Williams said the officers’ approach would be the key to success. If they are friendly and are possibly willing to trade a ticket for a minor infraction for signing up with Smart911, he thinks people will sign up.

To register, visit