York County to get Smart911 technology


York County 911 dispatchers will have another tool in their arsenal when it comes to sending help to people in need.

County commissioners at their weekly meeting on Wednesday unanimously approved a deal with AT&T Mobility to bring Smart911 technology, which provides additional information about 911 callers to dispatchers, to the county in the near future.

The program will help give first responders a better idea of what kind of call they are responding to and could improve response times, officials said.

It will also help dispatchers pinpoint where someone who's using a cellphone is calling from, said Adam Eisenman a regional sales director at Rave Mobile Safety, which operates the program.

How it works: The technology will allow county residents to create an online profile at smart911.com and register information about themselves and their children, including medical conditions, as well as details about their home such as entry points and where bedrooms are located.

Users also can upload photographs of themselves or their children, which would be useful for police during missing-person situations, Eisenman said.

When someone who's registered with the website calls 911, the information they provided will be displayed on a dispatcher's computer screen. The information can only be accessed when someone calls 911, and it is displayed for only 45 minutes, Eisenman said, adding the information can be shared with emergency personnel in the field.

A caller's profile can also be viewed by dispatchers in other areas that have Smart911 technology if a person calls 911 when traveling, he said.

There is no cost to residents who create a profile.

Eric Bistline, executive director of the county's Department of Emergency Services, said the program "goes to the very core of what we do at 911" — sending help to those in need.

"It brings a lot of value," he said.

Cost: The program comes at a cost; however, that won't be incurred by the county's general fund.

Under the deal inked by commissioners, the county will receive 22 active and 29 inactive "backup" Smart911 program licenses at a cost of $40,500, which also includes a setup fee. Starting in January, the county will be charged a $99,000 yearly licensing fee.

One commissioner balked at the high, recurring cost.

"The $99,000 seems high to me," said Doug Hoke, vice president commissioner.

The entire cost will covered by money the county receives from telephone surcharges for 911 that are tacked onto phone bills, Bistline said.

Spread the word: In order for the program to work, residents will be encouraged to opt-in and supply what information they choose.

"The product can only be as good as the number of people who participate in it," Bistline said.

Eisenman said trends show 10 percent of residents register a profile within the first year of the program's launch in an area. Registration numbers increase to 30 to 40 percent over time in some areas.

The county, along with the private sector program supplier, will launch a campaign in the coming weeks to raise awareness that the county has this technology, Bistline said.

Considering the high cost, Steve Chronister, president commissioner, said he'd like to see more than the typical percentage of users register.

"We have to get it out there," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.