By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Residents soon may develop a more personal relationship with ChatComm, the city of Sandy Springs’ 911 center that it runs with Johns Creek.

On July 13, the ChatComm board voted to approve using Smart911, a service provided by Rave Wireless Inc.

The Smart911 service allows emergency callers to skip the small talk by collecting information from citizens before a catastrophe occurs. The service also gives the 911 center text messaging capabilities and helps locate people who make emergency calls from cellphones.

“The value with this solution, we think, is just tremendous,” said Sandy Springs Assistant City Manager Noah Reiter.

Reiter said the service should be provided for free. However, other members of the board said ChatComm may charge participants for the service. No price was discussed.

ChatComm will be the first facility in Georgia to use the service. The 911 center will pay a discounted price of $81,600 a year for the service, Reiter said.

The way Smart911 works is residents, on a voluntary basis, provide photos and information about themselves such as their name, address and medical conditions. The information, uploaded through a Web site, then is linked to a person’s cellphone and home telephone numbers.

When a 911 center receives an emergency call from a registered number, the information about the caller automatically pops up onto the computer screen.

That capability aids in many situations, Reiter said. For instance, in missing child cases, photographs can be instantly sent to police officers in the field.

The Smart911 service also allows 911 call takers to text message. A person must first dial 911 but need not speak to describe their problem. A chat screen would open up at the 911 center, allowing the caller to text about the situation.

In addition, the Smart911 service will help 911 call takers locate people who make emergency calls from cellphones, about 86 percent of calls. The service integrates with embedded Global Positioning Systems found in nearly “every cellphone today,” Reiter said.

“It’s pretty accurate,” Reiter said. “It’s impressive.”

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