Dubuque County is the first in the state to try a new emergency response system called “Smart911.” County Emergency Communications Manager, Mark Murphy, says the system is voluntary and allows residents to create a database of information linked to any phone number. “Such as medical conditions, for instance diabetes, epilepsy, alzheimers things like that, they can put that information in to inform responders of their condition. They can put medications in and emergency contact information in — any special medical needs or home needs associated with that number,” Murphy says.

The service allows emergency responders to know a lot more than the dispatcher now receives from a regular or cellphone. “If they call from a landline right now we get their name associated with the phone number and and address,” Murphy explains. “If they call from a cellular number we can basically get the cellular number and the latitude and longitude associated with where they are calling from.”

The service isn’t just for private homeowners. “Businesses can log in and put in information about their business — contact information so forth. They can also put in floor plans in for the businesses. Residents can also put floor plans in as well,” Murphy says. He says all that information would then be available to first responders.

That’s a lot of confidential information involved, but Murphy says it is safe. “It is a secure website kept offsite…we can only see the information if a person dials 9-1-1, and then only for a certain period of time,” Murphy says. Murphy says all the information can be very valuable and save time for those responding to an emergency.

“People are required to update it every six months to keep it clean and up to date,” Murphy says. He says the accounts are sent a text message from the company that runs the system every six months asking them to update the information.

Dubuque County started signing people up for the service at the start of this month. Murphy wants them to be an example for others. “I hope to be the guinea pig that shows people how it works,” Murphy says. “I think it is a very good product. It has a lot of advantages for the citizens of Dubuque County, it should literally help us get a better response for the public.”

Those wanting to subscribe can go to a website and log in and fill out their information. Murphy says the $14,000 first year cost of the system is being paid for with funds seized by the Dubuque County Drug Task Force. The Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Dubuque Police Department will split the cost going forward.