A town hall meeting will be held on Thursday by the Benton Police Department to present a life saving service called Smart911.
"There is a vast amount of opportunity for our 911 service. Smart911 could provide faster, safer public safety response that could save lives," Police Chief Kirk Lane said. "We want to first educate the public about the program. Then we want people to give feedback and input on if we should pursue this or not."
Lane said Rave Mobile Safety, based out of Boston, Mass., will present an interactive video presentation and there will be questions answered by the audience. He said the town hall meeting — at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the Benton Municipal Complex located at 114 S. East St. — will last about an hour, but it is important for residents feedback because Smart911 is expected to cost around $10,000 a year to operate.
"We are looking at using specific funding and restricted through 911 fees that would already be available, but it would have to be designated. We wouldn't need a new tax or anything," Lane said. "It is money already allocated for 911 issues, but we want to be good stewards of city money."
If you research Smart911 at www.smart911.com , you'll find out that basically it is the emergency operator being able to pull up pertinent information about a person or place where emergency crews are sent.
"In a situation where seconds count, being able to provide the operator with other critical information about you and your family the instant your call is made can be the difference between life and death," www.smart911.com  reads. "Smart911 was created by leaders in the fields of privacy and information management with the firm belief that providing 9-1-1 with additional timely information about you when you call, can help speed and enhance the effectiveness of an emergency response. We are helping protect millions each and every day."
Lane said there is much more to Smart911 than even the website lists. When asked how often emergency workers — from police to fire to ambulance services — have problems with receiving vital information on the way to the scene of an emergency, Lane responded "daily."
"We have problems finding where the emergency call is even coming from on a daily basis," Lane said. "Sometimes it is a stressed caller, or it could even be a child hiding inside the home calling 911. The seconds and minutes it takes to get the information and get to the area are invaluable."
The police chief explained that with Smart911, the 911 operator would have that valuable information ready and available to give to emergency crews. Lane said with Smart911 the information given to emergency crews could be as simple "as a good house description or even a vehicle description" or as detailed as needed.
"You can let them know how many people live in the home, and even put pictures of children into Smart911 incase they are every reported missing," Lane explained. "You could put in information about special medical needs, whether it is a heart condition or allergies or if a child with autism is in the home or vehicle. It can even show if someone has an order of protection against someone else. It also can help with non-english speaking citizens."
He added, "Smart911 could also be invaluable for the hearing impaired. Even if someone dials 911, hangs it up or just sets the phone down, emergency crews will respond. So if the person calling has already provided information to Smart911, the 911 operator can radio emergency crews with valuable information without having to necessarily speak to the caller."
If you are worried about who will view the information you list on Smart911, Lane said there are safeguards on the secure national database.
"It cannot be researched or explored by anyone else. The information is only displayed to 911 dispatchers," Lane said. "People would put in information that they would want a 911 operator to have incase of an emergency."
According to www.smart911.com , "Rave Mobile Safety’s staff and automated tools monitor the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure peak performance, reliability and data security. Our production equipment is housed in top-tier secure facilities complete with 24/7 physical security, video surveillance, and alarms. The facilities and application are regularly audited and subjected to intrusion prevention testing. You can rest assured your personal information is secure."
Smart911 is currently being used in 20 states and last month it was installed in Searcy. Lane said there is no cost for residents to sign up to Smart911 and cell phones can be registered. He also said that every six months, those that sign up will receive an email from Smart911 "asking if they need to update any information."
"To have the ability to use Smart911 for simple information which would make emergency services arrive quicker on scene is invaluable," Lane said. "We looked at this program in depth and there are a lot of valuable facets. We believe this is a great program."
For more information, call the Benton Police Department at 776-5948 or visit www.smart911.com .