Smart911: Where it’s spreading, and why first responders want you to join

WASHINGTON — Alexandria, Virginia, is the latest locality in the D.C. area to join Smart911, a system that allows users to create a safety profile that first responders see when responding to calls for help.

Information you can load in the system might include medical conditions, pets, emergency contact numbers and hazardous materials first responders might encounter, such as oxygen tanks and floor plans.

“You can put in information about your location beyond the address,” City of Alexandria spokesman Craig Fifer said — “if you live in a basement apartment or if you have a guest residence in an outbuilding [in] your backyard. All of these pieces of information could help responders find the person who’s placing the call.”

D.C. joined the Smart911 system in 2012, and the former Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has a statement on the system’s website about why you should sign up.

“One of the things we fail to think about is the fact that when a person is dialing 911, it can be a very chaotic environment and there could be a lot of panic involved. If they have preloaded a profile that automatically populates for our responders, we have useful information, even if the person cannot relay all needed information to us,” Ellerbe says.

It’s recommended you register a safety profile for all your potential phone numbers — for mobile phones, as well as phones at home, work and school.

“Because you never know what number you might be calling from when you call 911,” Fifer said.

Information in Smart911 is universally available to certified 911 operators in any participating locality across the country.

To see whether Smart911 is available in a spot you visit, find the “services in your area” Zip code search function on the Smart911 website under “How It Works.”

In addition to Alexandria and D.C., nearby localities offering the service include Frederick County, Maryland, and Orange County, Virginia, in the Fredericksburg area.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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