If you've read Wednesday's News Tribune story about the launch of a city/county Smart911 system, we know what you're thinking.
You're probably trying to balance the pros and cons of participating in a program that requires you to provide personal information about you and your family, with the possibility it could help you during an emergency.
In other words, you're making a quick mental risk-benefit assessment. Is this Big Government getting its foot in the door of your home? Could the information you provide get hacked and leaked? What are the potential benefits?
This new tool for the Jefferson City 911 system officially launched Tuesday, and authorities said this technology puts the local emergency dispatch service among the most sophisticated in the state.
Smart911 is a "free" service — paid through your taxes — that allows individuals and families to sign up online to provide key information to 911 dispatchers during an emergency.
It allows individuals to create a safety profile for their household. The profiles can include information residents might want emergency personnel to know, such as health conditions, garage door pass codes or spare key locations. As a user, it's up to you how much information you'd like to provide.
The system pays off when information provided can help first responders help its users.
"Smart911 saves critical time in an emergency and has proven to save lives nationwide," Chief Roger Schroeder said in a news release. "The additional information provided in a Smart911 Safety Profile enables us to know exactly where we are going and for whom we are looking for in a house fire or at the scene of a vehicle accident. Those details can help us respond faster and more efficiently."
Smart911 can, for instance, allow first responders to know whether you have allergies to medication, in the instance you're not able to speak. If your home is on fire, it can allow them to know the layout of the house before they arrive — possibly saving precious time when ensuring everyone in your family is out of the home.
We understand people's concerns about privacy. But we trust our city/law enforcement officials to keep our information safe. To us, this just makes sense. This is one of the few times we would argue the more information you can give a government entity, the better.
Nationally, the program already has saved lives, and we believe it will save lives locally as well.