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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Innovations in Emergency Preparation


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We talk a lot about preparedness in Arkansas. As we go about our daily lives, we stress the importance of being ready for any emergency. September is National Preparedness Month, and the usual reminders are in place to plan ahead. Have a strategy in place for your family if a tornado or fire hits your home, and have supplies nearby for any prolonged emergency. This year, as innovation continues to advance technology, there are new tools available, at no charge, to help keep you and your family safer.

A new smartphone app from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management delivers real-time, interactive information based on your current location. Called ReadyAR, the app displays a radar image of current local conditions and notifies you about watches and warnings for severe weather in the immediate area. It also supplies current road conditions and maps from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. The app offers an opportunity to help others by reporting emergencies to local officials, who can be contacted directly through the app. This new tool can now be downloaded, for free, to smartphones that use Apple and Android software.

Additionally, there's a new service for both wireless and landline telephones that allows you to provide vital information before an emergency ever strikes. The Smart911 system lets you confidentially submit and store a safety profile for yourself and your loved ones online at The information is kept private until it is needed in an emergency. At that time, it is automatically available to 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders when an emergency call is made. Information can include medical conditions, allergies, photos in the event of a lost child, and parental emergency contact information if a child calls 9-1-1. This data helps first responders to react more quickly and can more precisely pinpoint the location of an emergency caller on a wireless phone.

Arkansas will be the first state in the nation to implement the Smart911 system statewide. Currently, twenty-seven 9-1-1 centers in Arkansas are participating, and the rest will be using it within the next year. Already, the system is showing positive results.

Earlier this year in Fort Smith, a four-year-old boy received a severe laceration across his face while playing outdoors. His mother, who had already created a profile on the system for the child, called 9-1-1. Caught up in the moment, she forgot to tell responders that her child was allergic to latex. Fortunately, this information was already in the database, and the dispatcher was able to warn responders and prevent a potentially dangerous allergic reaction.

Today's technology makes us more interconnected than ever before. Planning for and responding to emergencies has always been a community effort. Through the ReadyAR app and Smart911 system, we can each make our communities better prepared and potentially save lives. The effectiveness of these programs, however, starts with individual responsibility. These two new services will help us to safeguard ourselves and our families in times of great stress and confusion and to see better results when emergencies occur.

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