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911 SAFER Program designed to save lives
Mar 06, 2013 4:37 pm
When emergency workers come to the aid of a person in a medical emergency, the more information they have about the patient, the better.
The 911 Special Advisory for Emergency Response Program is in its second year in Wilson County, and emergency officials call it a success. The program is designed to give county residents a way to inform emergency personnel of their pre-existing medical conditions, or conditions inside their home, even if they are unable to speak.
"We have probably 6,000-7,000 phone numbers," said Wilson County Emergency Communication District Director J.R. Kelley. "The turnout for the program has been great."
The program allows residents to fill out a form for WECD to make it easier and faster for emergency workers to get them the help they need. After providing basic information, the form allows residents to include a "special note" specific to their situation.
What to put on the special note varies with each individual. The note can have medical information, such as the caller is a diabetic or has a heart condition. But it's not just medical information contained on the form. It can also include information such as a warning about a dog on the premises, a note that the patient is in a wheelchair, a contact person to call on the patient's behalf or even where a key to the residence is hidden.
"If you've added that you're diabetic, have a heart condition or are confined to a wheelchair, that could assist as well," he said. "When we forward that call to [Wilson Emergency Management Agency], they can be preparing for those conditions before they get there."
Kelley wants residents to know any information they provide as part of the program is secure. The data is entered into a secure database not accessible from the Internet. It's an 'intranet,' available only to emergency services personnel in Wilson County. But the program only works if people participate and provide correct, current information.
"Information given by residents to 911 SAFER is strictly confidential, it's not shared with anyone except the emergency responder who is answering your call," he said. "All the emergency services in the county are on the same network. So if we transfer a call to the sheriff's department, that SAFER information will appear to the dispatcher. We haven't found any down side. Some people are concerned about sharing their information, but we don't share it with anyone. Other than dispatchers, no one else has access to it."
The program is a boon to emergency personnel as well. It provides protection for emergency responders in certain situations. If there's a protective dog in the house, they need to know that before they open the door, or if there is a hidden key that information could prevent first responders from having to break into a door to get to a person in need.
Kelley said if a resident only has a cellphone, this program is a must. The form can list the exact location of someone calling from a specific cell phone number. Cell phone call locations do not automatically come up for dispatchers unlike calls from a land line. Pausing to search for a person who is having an emergency could delay getting them the help they need.
"It assists in finding a caller if they are calling from a cellphone. The phone will give us a location but it may not be exact," Kelley said. "If you live in a subdivision we may not know for sure where that call is coming from, but if we have your address in the Safer Program then we wouldn't have to guess where that call is coming from."
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto issued a signed proclamation again proclaiming the time from the first day of daylight saving time to the last day of daylight saving time “911 SAFER Day” in Wilson County. This is to remind residents to call WECD at the beginning of daylight saving time to update the information in their note.
Kelley said participants can update their note anytime throughout the year and he recommends they do so if they have a change in their condition and/or medication that a first responder would need to know about.
Kelley also said a recently passed state program will be a complement to the 911-SAFER Program. The Yellow Dot Program will provide similar protection for motorists who are on the road when an accident or medical emergency happens.
"Participants in the Yellow Dot Program will be given a form to fill out and place in their glove box," Kelly said. "They will also get a yellow dot sticker to place on their back windshield. When first responders see the sticker they will know to check the glove box for their medical information."
He said his agency will be one of the places across the state that will be distributing the forms and yellow dot stickers for people in Wilson County.
Anyone interested in participating in the 911-SAFER Program should provide their special note with applicable phone numbers to WECD either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to wilson911.org/911-SAFER.html and filling out the form at the bottom of the website. People without computer access can call 449-7155 and relay their information to the WECD over the phone from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"It's your information," Kelley said. "We're just storing it in case it's needed in an emergency. There's really no reason not to do it."