Sussex campaign: Get Smart about safety – as in Smart911


27 Smart911 GOV DAY Joe Thomas, Sussex County eOC Director on Smart911

Sussex County Emergency Operations Center Director Joe Thomas shares information on Smart911 with students during Boys State/Girls State Sussex County Government Day.

GEORGETOWN — There’s a public safety movement across Sussex County, Delaware to Get Smart!

And they’re not talking Agent 86, Agent 99, CONTROL or KAOS.

Sept. 11, 2016, will mark the two-year anniversary of Sussex County’s launching of Smart911.

It’s a free supplemental data service that allows an individual to create a private safety profile that can be seen by emergency responders when you dial 9‑1‑1. The additional profile information can enhance first response efforts in emergencies.

Smart911 is available in Sussex County, provided by county government.

“We currently have more than 3,000 people within the county who have registered for Smart911 safety profile. The county is actually paying for services throughout Sussex County. We are the only county in the state doing that right now,” said Sussex County EOC Director Joe Thomas in a mock agenda presentation to students at County Government Day.

Information and video clips Mr. Thomas presented were 100-percent real.

Last year in Sussex County, the number of 9-1-1 calls surpassed 111,000. Nearly 80 percent of those came from cell phone type devices.

“The problem with that, and 9-1-1’s flaw, is when you dial 9-1-1 from a cell phone all we get in the 9-1-1 center is the phone number, and GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinate where that phone is located at the moment that you dial,” said Mr. Thomas. “We don’t know who you are. We don’t where you are from. We don’t have any other connection. All we know is the phone number and where that phone is located on the map.”

“What happens when you can’t communicate? You’re deaf, who had a seizure, someone broke into home and you are hiding somewhere and you can’t speak because you are afraid the perpetrator might find you,” Mr. Thomas said. “You are in a diabetic coma, heart attack or stroke, all of these cases is where people call 9-1-1 and if they are the person calling us, they physically can’t communicate with us. This is where Smart911 comes in. It actually speaks for you.”

The safety profile can include such helpful information as location of emergency utility shutoffs, emergency contacts, bedroom locations, any disabilities, medications and even pet information.

“My 22-year-old daughter actually has a picture of her dog on my safety profile,” Mr. Thomas said.

“You can also put pictures in your safety profile,” said Mr. Thomas, noting a picture of a residence could very well assist responders in locating the home on a dark night quicker than searching for a five-digit address number.

“It can be as much information as you want or as little as you want,” Mr. Thomas said. “It gives us more than the basic information. It helps us do our job much better.”

27 Smart911 will wical jim bowden

Jim Bowden, 911 technical adviser for Sussex County, presents information on Smart911 to attendees at a recent Caesar Rodney Council Pioneers luncheon. At left is Pioneers president Will Wical.

Telephone company retiree Jim Bowden, the 911 technical advisor for Sussex County, shared similar information in an April 7 presentation to the Caesar Rodney Council Pioneers.

“It has gotten to be a popular program,” said Mr. Bowden. “It allows us to be more versatile and get more info in multiple locations. It doesn’t cost anything and it really helps us help you.”

Profile information is stored in a national database that is audited literally weekly to avoid the possibility of hacking, Mr. Thomas said.

Smart911 technology is now in 37 states across the country and over 1,000 municipalities.

“The nice feature of this service is if you create a safety profile in Sussex County and you travel to any of those states, that information travels with you. It will display in front of that dispatcher in that state,” Mr. Thomas said.

“It will pop up on any 9-1-1 screen as long as they have bought into the Smart911,” said Mr. Bowden.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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