Students encountering a dangerous situation are sufficiently savvy to reach for their mobile phones and call 911, but locating the source of a mobile 911 call made from a university campus is not easy and can cause delays in the arrival and preparedness of first responders.
Many people will have heard of “Enhanced 911” or “E911” – a system used for locating the source of a mobile 911 call. E911 uses GPS and TDOA (“Time Difference on Arrival”) to triangulate the location of a mobile 911 caller by sending signals to the mobile phone from at least two cellphone towers and calculating how long it takes for the signal to be returned to each tower.
Because E911 has to support mobile devices other than smartphones with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, it works in a different way than commercial location-based smartphone apps (such as Google Maps). Whereas location-based applications use a combination of hybrid positioning systems and handset-based software to identify the location of a mobile phone, E911 relies on “line of sight”.
Line of sight is an unreliable method of accurately locating the source of a mobile 911 call if – for example – the caller is in a mountainous region or standing between skyscrapers. It is also unreliable if the caller is inside a building, as it may be able to calculate the “X” and “Y” coordinates of the caller, but not the “Z” coordinates – i.e. what floor of the building the caller is calling from.
In a university environment – in which multiple buildings are grouped closely together and triangulation signals can be distorted by Distributed Antenna Systems – accurately locating the source of a mobile 911 call made from a university campus is practically impossible using E911 technology. However, some universities have implemented systems that partially overcome the problem.
These systems work via apps that are downloaded onto students´ smartphones. They still use E911 technology to make 911 calls, but also use hybrid positioning systems and handset-based software to alert campus security teams to the location of the mobile phone. Students can also take advantage of geotagged texting to silently advise campus security of a dangerous situation.
These systems for locating the source of a mobile 911 call made from a university campus work inside buildings – even those with Distributed Antenna Systems – and regardless of what floor of the building a student is calling from. The advanced location-identifying software can save precious minutes in the arrival and preparedness of first responders – minutes that could potentially save the student´s life.
If a system for locating the source of a mobile 911 call made from a university campus has not been implemented, students can take responsibility for their own personal safety by creating a Personal Safety Profile at Smart911.com. This is a free service paid for by the county or city in which the university is located (please note not all jurisdictions are covered by the Smart911 service).
The Personal Safety Profile will prompt students to enter information about their health (blood group, medical conditions, allergies, etc.) and any other information that could be useful to first responders attending an emergency. It gives students the opportunity to upload maps of where they live and study, and make notes about access points and gate codes.
Smart 911 also allows for “911 call taker initiated 2-way texting”. This function enables 911 call takers to text students for further information about their location if the 911 call taker is unable to pinpoint it exactly from the details entered on the Personal Safety Profile. It is not an ideal solution for locating the source of a mobile 911 call made from a university campus but, until E911 technology develops to be as good as commercial location-based smartphone apps, it might just be a life-saving alternative.
There are dozens of organizations that can help veterans with mental health issues, but not all former servicemen and women – having belonged to a military “organization” for many years – are willing to approach established support groups and charitable associations for help.
Between 2002 and 2009, one million military personnel left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and became eligible for VA healthcare. Less than half the veterans eligible for the service took advantage of it, and 48% of those that did were diagnosed with a mental health issue. The reasons given by veterans with mental health issues for not seeking help included:
These reasons given why not all former servicemen and women are willing to approach an established support group (such as VA healthcare) or charitable association implies there is an institutional stigma attached to mental health issues. Indeed, veterans who sought help with mental health issues while on active service where often treated with suspicion or chastised for relying on antidepressants.
When veterans with mental health issues don´t seek help, they often struggle with reintegrating into society. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, veterans who go through the criminal justice system have high rates of untreated mental illness (PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.), substance abuse, homelessness and other health-related issues.
The combination of mental health issues and substance abuse places veterans at a higher risk of incarceration. The criminal justice system does not provide the type of treatments that address veterans´ mental health issues, and the result is a vicious circle. Service-connected mental illness is over-criminalized, incarcerated veterans are under-treated, and recidivism rates increase.
As mentioned above, there are dozens of organizations that can help veterans with mental health issues. Some of them work exclusively with incarcerated veterans to help break the vicious circle. However, to be of maximum benefit, these specialized organizations have to be notified as soon as possible after an arrest is made in order to remove the former serviceman or woman from the justice system and deliver tailored treatments to address their mental health issues.
Smart911 is a free service that allows users to create Personal Safety Profiles. Users can populate their profiles with any relevant information they would wish first responders to know in the event of an emergency. Whenever a call to 911 is made using a landline or mobile device recorded on the user´s profile, details of the user are displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker in the local Public Safety Answering Point.
The way in which Smart911 can help veterans with mental health issues, is for veterans to indicate on their Personal Safety Profiles they are former military personnel. It is not necessary to list any mental health issues that have been diagnosed; although the more information first responders can be provided with, the better they can be prepared for the situations and individuals they are likely to encounter.
The Smart911 service is particularly valuable for suicide prevention. Not only can first responders formulate a plan to deal with the potential of a veteran taking their own life, but they can also ensure resources are available when needed to help veterans with mental health issues – typically specialized organizations that can prevent veterans from being incarcerated by delivering tailored treatment.
If you would like to know more about how Smart911 can help veterans with mental health issues, visit the Smart911 Home Page. If you are a friend or family member of a former serviceman or women, please advise them about this service and let them know it is completely confidential and secure. Personal Safety Profiles can only be seen by 9-1-1 call takers, and it only takes a few minutes to complete a profile. Smart911 is not a treatment organization or a support group, but it could help veterans with mental health issues stay out of prison and could help save their lives.
Assigning unique ringtones for emergency communications is a great way to ensure you never miss an emergency alert due to messaging fatigue – a condition often experienced by smartphone users overloaded by constant notifications from multiple sources every day.
Years ago, if you wanted to communicate with somebody, you would pick up the phone and call them, write them a letter, or even go round and speak with them face to face. These days, we have smartphones. These are supposed to make our lives easier, but with so many options for communicating with people – and only so many being appropriate to communicate with certain people in certain ways – many smartphone users are overloaded by constant notifications from multiple sources every day.
With friends contacting you by Facebook Messenger, parents sending you SMS texts, the boss sending you emails, Twitter sending you notifications, and random contacts in WhatsApp groups and Google Hangouts keeping in touch, it is not difficult to see why many smartphone take a break from their mobile phones and have a “digital detox”. There is even a “National Day of Unplugging”, which this year takes place from sundown to sundown on March 9th and 10th.
Messaging fatigue is not a new phenomenon. Mobile marketing companies identified it as an issue at the beginning of the decade and, in 2013, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found alert fatigue was becoming an issue for the healthcare industry. More recent research in Australia concluded that modern messaging options were adding a new layer of stress for the 18-25 age group, as they were expected by their peers to be online all the time.
The issue with messaging fatigue is that, when people are overloaded, they tend to ignore the tone of an incoming notification and the risk exists they could miss an important message. For people who have registered their smartphones as a means of contact with emergency alert services, they could miss a message telling them to evacuate their property or make preparations to safeguard themselves against severe weather conditions. In some cases, the missed message could cost them their lives.
One way to avoid missing emergency alerts due to messaging fatigue is by assigning unique ringtones for emergency communications. The process for assigning unique ringtones for emergency communications is relatively straightforward and much the same regardless of the smartphone´s operating system. All that is required is that the number from which the emergency alert will come is added to the contacts list and the ringtone to be used is added to the smartphone´s music list.
Thereafter, you access your contacts list (contact app on iPhone), selects the number from which any emergency alert will come and tap edit. Select “ringtone” and “add from device storage” and then select the tune you have chosen to assign to emergency alerts. Provided the selected ringtone is one you will recognize as representing an emergency event, assigning unique ringtones for emergency communications can save your life.
People often complete Personal Safety Profiles with the basic information they are prompted for, but there are many more essential details to include in a Personal Safety Profile that could further shorten response times and potentially save lives.
Personal Safety Profiles are the key element of the Smart911 service. They provide 9-1-1 call takers in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) with critical information that helps them make faster and better decisions in order to shorten response times. The Smart911 service also better prepares first responders to deal with emergency situations on their arrival.
Personal Safety Profiles are proven to save lives – but they could save more. Often people only complete the fields they are prompted to complete and provide limited additional information in the “Special Notes” section of the profile. This section – and the photograph gallery – could be used to far greater effect to further shorten response times and potentially save lives.
Before discussing the essential details to include in a Personal Safety Profile – above what people are prompted to include – let´s just quickly refresh our minds about the purpose of a Personal Safety Profile. Personal Safety Profiles should provide 9-1-1 call takers with the information they need to accelerate response times and ensure the most appropriate actions are taken by first responders.
In order to accelerate response times as much as possible, it will help 9-1-1 call takers to have details relating to the location of the property (not just its address) and the best access points. It will help first responders take the most appropriate actions if they can plan search and rescue strategies in advance and have floor plans at their disposal. Therefore, Smart911 users should:
Other essential details to include in a Personal Safety Profile are “non-diagnosable medical conditions”. It may seem strange that people would have non-diagnosable medical conditions, but these are generally responses to rare events that set off certain reactions. As the rare events cannot be replicated in a physician´s surgery, the conditions remain undiagnosed.
Examples of non-diagnosable medical conditions include reactions to being in a smoky environment or being in a “fight or flight” situation. Symptoms often include memory loss, the feeling that things around you are moving quicker or slower than normal, visual problems, audio problems or multiple sensory distortions. First responders need to know if you suffer any of these – even rarely.
Under the terms of the Smart911 service, users must log into their Personal Safety Profiles at least once every six months in order to avoid their profiles being suspended and unavailable to 9-1-1 call takers. This is to prevent people moving houses, forgetting to change their profiles, and first responders being sent to the wrong address in an emergency.
If you have not logged into your Personal Safety Profile for more than six months, do not be alarmed. The profile is reactivated and available to 9-1-1 call takers as soon as you log in again and confirm the information in your profile is still accurate. Regardless of whether you have logged into your profile recently or not, it is a good idea to visit Smart911 today, review your profile and add any of the essential details to include in a Personal Safety Profile mentioned above you may have overlooked.
If you have created a free Smart911 account, it is important to keep your Smart911 Safety Profile up to date by logging into the account every six months.
Smart911 is a free service used by local law enforcement, medical and fire responders to better serve members of the public during an emergency. Provided the public safety agency participates in the Smart911 program, 9-1-1 call takers automatically receive additional information about citizens calling 9-1-1 via their Smart911 Safety Profile that can be passed on to first responders.
At a time when citizens may be panicked and unable to communicate information clearly – or it could be unsafe for them to communicate with 9-1-1 call takers for an extended length of time – the Smart911 Safety Profile provides details needed by first responders for them to be best prepared for the emergency scenario they will encounter. Effectively, it could save your life.
Your profile tells 9-1-1 call takers only what you want them to know. You enter as much or as little information about yourself as you wish – although the more information you can provide about medical conditions, mobility issues and your blood type can be essential in saving your life. Also, if you have prepared an Advance Medical Directive, it is a good idea to include that on your profile as well.
Families who create a joint profile should include details about every person who ordinarily lives in the property registered to the profile. It can also be beneficial to include details about your vehicles, your pets and the relationship between each individual. Once created, it is important to keep your Smart911 Safety Profile up to date.
There are two important reasons why it is important to keep your Smart911 Safety Profile up to date. The first is so that first responders have accurate information about you and your family. If, for example, you move house, it is essential you update your Smart911 profile with your new address. Similarly if you change your cellphone number or develop an illness that requires medication.
Because of the risk first responders may attend an emergency at the wrong location, Smart911 profiles are automatically suspended after six months of inactivity. Even if nothing you would wish 9-1-1 call takers to know has changed, you must log into your Smart911 account at least once every six months to confirm your details are still the same and keep your account active.
Smart911 does send reminder messages to citizens approaching the six-month mark, but these are only effective if your contact details have not changed. You can reactivate and update your account at any time; but, while your account is suspended, your Smart911 Safety Profile will not be available to 9-1-1- call takers when they answer your emergency call.
Due to the nature of how many of us live our lives, we don´t always find time to perform “precautionary” tasks – such as reviewing our Smart911 Safety Profiles. However, it is important to keep your Smart911 Safety Profile up to date in order to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Therefore, take a minute today to log into your Smart911 account and check your profile.
When you have finished checking your profile, set a reminder on your cellphone to check it again in a few months’ time. Although accounts remain active for six months, keeping your profile up to date is a good habit to get into. Hopefully, 9-1-1 call takers will never have a reason for looking at your profile; but if they do, wouldn´t you rather it provided accurate information that might help save your life?
Although VoIP services are becoming more reliable, and can now be used to make emergency telephone calls, you still can´t call 911 from a PC.
Most people over the age of thirty will remember the days when, if you wanted to make an emergency telephone call, you hand to call 911 from a landline. Mobile phones barely existed – certainly not in the numbers they do now – but the good news was that 9-1-1 call takers would be able to pinpoint the caller´s exact location from the fixed line they used to make the call.
As mobile phones became more popular, their use to make 911 calls increased. Last year 70% of all calls received by Public Services Answering Points (PSAPs) were made from a mobile phone. In order to overcome potential problems regarding the location of the caller – and to comply with FCC regulations – mobile phones must send Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) data to 9-1-1 call takers.
Mobile carriers are increasingly using VoIP to transmit calls using Wi-Fi networks. It is cheaper for the carriers and relieves the pressure on cellular networks. However, whereas as mobile carriers have to comply with FCC regulations, VoIP-based apps (Skype, Google Voice, WhatsApp, etc.) do not. Consequently you will not be able to use VoIP apps on your mobile phone to make emergency calls because 9-1-1 will be unable to pinpoint your location. For the same reason you can´t call 911 from a PC.
The FCCs regulations stipulate it must be possible to pinpoint a 911 caller´s location to within 300 yards Even PCs with location-tracking features are not sufficiently accurate to satisfy FCC regulations – usually because (without GPS software) they register the ISP´s default address rather than the computer´s location. In some cases, the two locations can be more than one thousand miles apart. Even PCs receiving an Internet signal from a nearby Wi-Fi router suffer similar problems.
Not being able to call 911 from a PC can be a problem when your mobile battery is flat or you cannot find your mobile phone in an emergency. The solution is to get an emergency phone – a cheap one that you can leave by your computer and charge via a USB connection. The phone does not even need to be activated with any specific carrier. Provided it can receive a signal, it is capable of completing a 911 call.
In order to overcome any issues with location (a non-activated phone is incapable of sending ANI and ALI data), the emergency phone should be included on your Smart911 Safety Profile along with your regular mobile phone number. That way, if your regular mobile battery is flat or you cannot find it in an emergency, 9-1-1 call takers will be aware of your location and be able to send assistance to the correct address quickly. One important note to remember: if the emergency phone is not activated, it will not have a number assigned to it and 9-1-1 call takers will be unable to call you back.
If you are concerned what might happen to your pets during an emergency evacuation, plan and add details about your pets to your Smart911 Safety Profile.
This year – 2017 – has seen more declared disasters requiring emergency evacuation than in most recent years according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although the disasters have not been on the scale of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, their number has resulted in many citizens – and their pets – being displaced from their homes for long periods of time.
But what happens to pets during an emergency evacuation? Other than service animals, pets are not allowed inside most evacuation shelters during an emergency; and the few pet-friendly shelters designed to accommodate household pets require pre-registration, proof of residency within the evacuation zone, and the current medical and vaccination records for each pet.
If you have not pre-registered with an emergency evacuation shelter, it is unlikely your pet will be allowed into the shelter. Most shelters have limited resources and limited spaces for animals. Even if space exists, you may not qualify for one if you have not brought your pet´s current medical and vaccination records – something you might easily forget in an emergency evacuation situation.
However, there is a solution – adding details about your pets to your Smart911 Safety Profile. If first responders are aware there are pets in your household, it may be possible to remove your pets from the risk of danger and take them to a safe place of refuge while the emergency persists. Although you may not be able to stay with them, it is a better solution than leaving them behind.
Smart911 Safety Profiles can be accessed by 911 call takers whenever you call to report an emergency. The Safety Profile consists of whatever details you wish to share with 911 call takers. Most people include information such as their blood type, hair color, weight, age and medical condition, details of any medication they are taking or mobility issues they have, and upload a photo of themselves.
One section of the Safety Profile relates to household information – for example the people you share a house with and their mobile phone numbers. If the people you share a house with also have Smart911 Safety Profiles, their details can be accessed from yours. It is in this section, you should add details about your pets – including photos, breeds, distinguishing features and behavioral problems.
By adding details about your pets to your Smart911 Safety Profile, first responders will be better prepared to help your pets during an emergency evacuation, and emergency management services will be better prepared to accommodate them. It is still preferable you pre-registered with an emergency evacuation shelter for your peace of mind, but there is at least an alternative option if you don´t.
There are many additional benefits of adding your pet to your Smart911 Safety Profile in addition to safeguarding the wellbeing of your pets during an emergency evacuation. If your home were to catch fire, first responders would be aware to rescue your pet from the flames. If you were injured in the fire, emergency management services could arrange for the pet to be cared for while you recover.
If your child were to go missing while walking your pet dog, first responders would be able to identify the dog from your Smart911 Safety Profile in order to place the last known location of your child. Similarly – although not an emergency – if your pet were to go missing or be stolen, police could have its details forwarded to them from your Smart911 safety profile in order to assist with the search.
If you do not yet have a Smart911 Safety Profile, it is free to sign up for the service and create your profile. Simply visit www.Smart911.com, click on any “Sign Up” button and enter a few details about yourself. Once your basic profile has been created, you can then add to it with all the information required to safeguard the wellbeing of your pets during an emergency evacuation.
Smart911 Safety Profiles provide an opportunity to make emergency services aware of your organ donation wishes if you are fatally injured in an accident. Talking about being fatally injured is not a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table – not in our house anyway – but it is something that could touch our lives or those close to us at any time. More than one hundred people die in automobile accidents across the country every day, with many more dying from unintentional drug overdoses, workplace accidents and falls.
When such tragic events happen, the victim´s organs can be used to save other people´s lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health, more than 120,000 patients are on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants. Although most people say they have no objection to having their organs donated to a life-saving cause after their death, only 45% of American citizens are registered as organ donors.
Registering as an Organ Donor is Easy
Often people intend to become an organ donor, but fail to do anything about it. As mentioned above, it is not a topic frequently discussed around the dinner table, and even in your physician´s surgery, you may have more important issues on your mind than discussing organ donation. Yet registering as an organ donor is easy:
• You can complete and carry a donor card, or indicate on your driver´s license that you wish to be an organ donor in the event of your death.
• You can state your organ donation wishes in an advance health care directive. You don´t have to wait until you are old to prepare a directive. Former President Obama has one.
• You can indicate in your will you wish to donate your organs after your death, although some states also require a specific form to be completed in order for your wishes to be executed.
• You can tell your friends and family you wish to be an organ donor, so even if you fail to register, your family will be aware of your wishes should you suffer a fatal injury.
• Alternatively you can make emergency services aware of your organ donation wishes by stating your wishes on the Safety Profile page of the Smart911 service.
The final option is the most sensible. When people are fatally injured in accidents, their organs have to be removed quickly in order for them to be viable, transplantable organs. If medical professionals have to wait for a donor card to be recovered, or the appropriate paperwork to be found, the opportunity to save somebody else´s life could be lost.
With the Smart911 service, emergency services can be aware of your wishes to be an organ donor as soon as they open your Safety profile – often on route to the scene of the accident. With this information about your wishes instantly available, emergency personnel can start preparing for a donation straightaway in order to give the transplant procedure the greatest likelihood of success.
How to Make Emergency Services Aware of Your Organ Donation Wishes
To make emergency services aware of your organ donation wishes, simply sign up for a free Smart911 account. Once your account is created, you will be asked to create a Safety Profile that will only be visible to 911 call takers to assist them during an emergency. The Safety Profile can include as much or as little information about you as you wish, but it is recommended you include any information you would want first responders to know if you do have an emergency so 911 call takers can leverage this information to get help to you as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Therefore, it is recommended you upload a photo of yourself into the Safety Profile, include your blood type, any medical conditions you suffer from and any prescription medication you are taking. In the notes section, you should also take the opportunity to make emergency services aware of your organ donation wishes. If everybody were to use this section to make emergency services aware of their organ donation wishes, not only might your organs help save the life of somebody else, but maybe somebody else´s organs may save your life or the life of somebody close to you.
Making a New Year´s resolution to review your Personal Safety Profile could be better for your wellbeing than making a resolution to exercise more frequently – especially if the organization through which you created your Personal Safety Profile has changed service providers.
Each January, I sit down and write a list of the things I intend to do in order to be a better me. The list rarely changes from year to year and usually consists of losing weight, exercising more and eating healthily. This year, the first item I wrote on my list was REVIEW YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY PROFILE.
Like tens of millions of people across America, I have joined a service that allows me to create a Personal Safety Profile for my family (and the dog). In the event of an emergency, 9-1-1 dispatchers have access to the Personal Safety Profile and can better direct first responders to my home, can tell first responders how many people they can expect to find there, and advise them of any medical conditions or mobility issues (fortunately we have none at the moment, but you never know).
The service I joined advises members to review your personal safety profile every six months, but it is one of those things I never get around to (like losing weight, exercising more and eating healthily). Recently I read a news article that gave me an extra incentive to make the time and spend a few hours updating my family´s profile. The news article concerned the residents of the city of Elgin in Illinois, but the same scenario could happen in any location around the country.
The City of Elgin in Illinois takes the safety of its residents seriously. For more than ten years, the city has paid for and maintained a mass notification service that alerts residents by SMS, voice broadcast and email in the event of an emergency. As city authorities only have access to fixed landline directories, residents who want to receive alerts by SMS or email on their mobile phones have to sign up to receive the notifications. It is a free service, so more than a thousand mobile users signed up.
What happened recently is the City of Elgin changed service providers. The new service provider – Smart911 – is cheaper for the city to maintain and gives residents the opportunity to create Personal Safety Profiles. The Personal Safety Profiles are displayed to 9-1-1 responders even if a resident calls 911 from their mobile (provided the mobile number is registered on their profile), but the problem is that the existing database of residents could not be imported from the old system to the new system.
To date, only five hundred residents of Elgin have signed up for the new service – implying there are another five hundred residents who think they are registered to receive emergency notifications, but who are not. City authorities are trying to get the word around as much as possible that people should reregister, especially as they intend extending the use of the service to warn residents of road closures, traffic congestion and other non-emergency (and often localized) events.
The reason this news article prompted me to review my Personal Safety Profile was that so many residents of Elgin appear unaware the city´s service provider has changed. If my service provider had changed, I thought, I wouldn´t necessarily be aware of it either. In that case, first responders would not have information about my family fed to them as they were on route to attend any emergency at my home – information that could save minutes and save lives.
Fortunately, the service provider had not changed, but I glad I checked. My review revealed several areas that could be improved upon – such as the door code for my apartment block – and I also added my neighbor´s contact details just in case I was uncontactable during an emergency. I strongly recommend that you also review your personal safety profile to find out if it could be improved upon, to change anything that needs changing, and to add additional points of contact.
I still intend to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthily. Whether that will happen, who knows? One thing for sure I will do again this year is review my Personal Safety Profile. I have set up a reminder to review it again in June and put it at the top of my New Year´s Resolution list for next year. Will you make a New Year´s Resolution to review your Personal Safety Profile? It could be better for your wellbeing than making a resolution to exercise more frequently – especially if your service provider has changed.