New app can give Fairfax Co. first responders info on your special needs in emergencies

A new system in Fairfax County, Virginia, lets people create profiles detailing special needs or situations firefighters might encounter in an emergency.

“If you have somebody in your home who is visually impaired or hard of hearing, or perhaps bedridden or mobility-limited, you can put that into the app,” said John Morrison, data analytics strategy manager for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

Community Connect is for residents and business owners.

“They may provide us with things like their evacuation plans [or] where the offices may be if people work unique hours,” Morrison said. “Business owners can put that information into the site so that we can have that as we respond to the call, instead of having to figure it out when we get on scene.”

What first responders see on Community Connect. (Courtesy Fairfax County Fire and Rescue)

The software platform from First Due also is in use in cities across the nation such as Seattle, Washington, and Fort Myers, Florida.

Fairfax County paid for it with a grant through NVERS, the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System.

Alexandria’s public safety agencies use a similar platform.

“It’s called Smart911,” Alexandria Fire Department spokeswoman Raytevia Evans said. “Like Community Connect, it allows businesses and residents to create a profile and include additional information that would be helpful to dispatchers and first responders in an emergency situation. It’s free to create a profile and the information provided is confidential and secure.”

You can learn more about Smart911 on the city’s website.

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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