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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: High-Tech Disaster Preparation


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Emergencies and disasters are frightening times that cannot usually be anticipated. That's why, in Arkansas, we constantly look for new and innovative ways to prepare ourselves for such events. So it should be no surprise that Arkansas is the first state to have two new online tools available to our residents and communities.

The Smart911 system was first implemented late last year. It allows users to confidentially store safety profiles for themselves and their loved ones. Profile information includes facts about a person's medical conditions, allergies, or parental contact information when a child makes the call to 9-1-1. Already, it has provided important information for more than 20,000 9-1-1 calls.

When a call comes in to 9-1-1, emergency responders immediately have access to any information that has been entered. In one recent example, a child was missing in Pulaski County. When dispatchers received a frantic call from the child's parent, they learned that the child's photo was already in the Smart911 system. That photo was immediately made available to police officers, and the child was quickly found.

Not only does Smart911 speed reaction time, it also provides details that can be easily forgotten in stressful situations. Callers who are panicked or unable to speak can still communicate valuable information through their previously created profiles. The system also allows responders to more precisely pinpoint the location of a caller with a wireless phone.

Arkansas's other new online tool, SmartPrepare, operates in a similar way, but on a larger scale. Managed by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, the system helps responders determine the needs of residents in communities that have been hit by disaster. Emergency-management officials can access the information without having to contact anyone in the affected area.

Disasters often create multiple emergencies that must be dealt with simultaneously. Along with the immediate safety of residents, responders also encounter power outages, the need for shelters, evacuations, or impassable roads. SmartPrepare enables emergency-management officials to anticipate the needs within a community before disaster strikes. For example, say a tornado or ice storm creates widespread power outages in a city. Using information already collected in SmartPrepare, officials will be able to locate those people who depend on electrically-powered medical devices or refrigeration for medications. The same databases can also indicate which individuals have physical conditions that might necessitate the most immediate assistance.

Having access to the right information is critical for managing the appropriate response to any incident. With this new technology, Arkansas's emergency responders can more efficiently use their resources and manpower to provide aid. However, this new technology is only useful if our citizens also prepare themselves by signing up in advance.

By going online and creating a confidential profile at, you can help responders help you in the event of an emergency. In those situations, the right information can save time, and can save lives. During my administration, I've repeatedly said that we've been getting too good at natural-disaster response, because we've had too much practice. By preparing ourselves and our communities with these new tools, we can make Arkansas that much safer before disaster arrives.

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