Smart 911 services help emergency responders find disaster victims faster

In wake of deadly storms, officials encourage more people to sign up

POSTED: 02:59 PM CDT May 20, 2013    UPDATED: 12:42 AM CDT May 21, 2013 
COLUMBIA, Mo. -

A system similar to mid-Missouri's Smart 911 service helped emergency crews rescue dozens of tornado victims in north Texas yesterday.

Those who signed up for the free service provided detailed information on a profile page set up for themselves and their families. 

These details showed up right as the 911 calls came in, which helped the dispatchers provide critical information to responders and sped up the rescue process. 

"In the event of a weather emergency-- whether it be flooding, a tornado-- signs get knocked down, roads get flooded and it becomes really hard to determine where something is located," Michane Mattson of Joint Communications in Boone County told ABC 17 News. 

Mattson said providing details before an emergency strikes can save lives. 

Details such as the color of a home, its roof or even its siding can help responders find people in need much quicker in weather emergencies. 

"It's very valuable to have in a time where weather has created a mess of everything," Mattson said. "It's hard to locate things."

Smart 911 is a free service that's easy to sign up for. 

Users can go online to www.smart911.com and provide as little or as much information as they want on their profile. 

They can even describe the floor plan of their house and who sleeps in which room. 

"[If] there's a tornado at night and the house collapses, we can know the location of the various bedrooms in the house and where people might be located in the house, and that's another critical piece of information," Mattson said. 

Mattson said the information users provide is kept private and can only be seen if they dial 911. 

She said she encourages everyone to sign up for the service because it can lessen response time.

"When seconds count, as much information you can provide to your responder really does make a difference in an emergency situation," Mattson said.