Smart911 will provide Knox County first responders with photos, medical info

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Knox County first responders will soon have access to crucial information before even arriving on the scene of an emergency.

The county is finalizing contracts for a service called Smart911. Using an app or a computer, residents will be able to create a profile that includes medical conditions, photos, and even the floor plan of their house.

Dispatchers will then have instant access to the information if a person calls 9-1-1.

"To have all of that information and be able to just go ahead and not have to ask, tying up time by asking questions for which we already have the answers, I think that's another huge component," said Vicki Miller, 911 center coordinator.

Galesburg Police Chief David Christensen says the system will help eliminate some of the guesswork for his officers.

"The main benefit to this is what I call pre-arrival information," said Christensen. "Somebody that has a tendency to wander away from home, we could have a photo of that person as we respond and may well encounter that person on the way.

Firefighters could be alerted to the presence of oxygen in a house, paramedics could find out about someone's medical history, and police could learn about the presence of dogs or animals.

Miller says Smart911 could be especially useful for people who are unable to speak or hear.

"That allows a hearing impaired person to have that voice and gives us everything that they want us to know," said Miller.

Residents will be able to provide as much - or as little - information as they choose.

The service will cost about $15,000 per year, and will be paid for through Knox County's public safety tax.