Murphy’s warning sirens wailed as a powerful storm front advanced on the city the evening of March 2. But about 1,800 residents also got notified on their cell phones by the Rave Mobile Safety alert system, Fire Chief Del Albright said.
Rave alerts via Smart911 is the official emergency mass notification system used by the city of Murphy to communicate with community residents before, during and after emergencies, said the chief.
Plano is another city using Smart911 technology, which helps first responders locate where a call is coming from and could display important information about the caller.
When calls are made from landline phones, operators can identify the location associated with the phone number. But more than 80% of calls to 911 now come from mobile phones that show only the general area where the call originated.
There’s no charge for residents to register with Smart911 and the system can collect valuable household information to help responders be faster and more efficient said Todd Miller, the company’s SVP of strategic programs.
Residents may voluntarily enter a variety of personal details about themselves and other occupants of the household such as a physical description and medical information that could be vital in identifying or treating occupants, Miller said.
He said personal details could include photographs and descriptions such as height, weight, eye color and hair color. Medical information could include health conditions, medications and medical equipment that could be dependent on electricity.
The safety profile could also store facts about pets, vehicles, emergency contacts or rescue information such as a home’s layout and location of bedrooms.
Miller pointed out that his boyhood home still has a sticker on what used to be his bedroom window, notifying emergency responders a child could be inside, so it is important to keep such information current.
Registering for Smart911 starts a six-month timer and reminder so you will get a reminder to update or confirm your information, Miller said. “It automatically keeps that information up to date and fresh.”
Miller said he was aware some people could be concerned about potential privacy violations resulting from having so much personal information in one place.
He stressed the amount of information entered was strictly voluntary and Smart911 would not re-sell information or use it for marketing. “We are a public safety partner for your community,” he said.
The database is not searchable and the profile information is displayed only when a 911 call is made from a registered phone, he said. In addition, the company routinely undergoes third-party security audits to make sure the information cannot be hacked.
Miller said Murphy’s multi-modal approach, layering sirens with text messages, was a key method of speeding up the delivery of emergency messages since “no single mode of communication is going to reach all individuals all of the time.”
By Bob Wieland