Lexington family advocates for new 911 technology

Published: Aug. 8, 2018 at 7:16 AM EDT
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For any family, calling 911 in an emergency can be terrifying. It's even more scary when you're having difficulty giving those dispatchers basic information.

We take for granted our ability to tell first responders where we live, and what's happening. For parents with special needs children, clear communication is often lacking. There's a program called Smart 911 that is helping those families feel safe in scary situations.

George Williams's mother Suzannah signed up for Smart 911 to give first responders all the information they need about George before there's an actual emergency.

"If there were a fire, he might hide or he might try to go back in to get his iPad or to find me," explains Suzannah Williams.

"One of my biggest concerns for my son George is that he doesn't understand what needs to be communicated in a situation."

Williams includes information about her son's behavior and his interests on her Smart 911 profile.

"I've marked that he has anxiety and autism," notes Williams. "And if he doesn't respond when someone talks to him, or he says something odd, I want the first responders to know this is somebody with autism. This could be why he looks odd, or why he's not responding, rather than thinking this is somebody doing something wrong."

Debra Nantz works in Lexington's Department of Public Safety. She says the information families leave on Smart 911 profiles, is secure.

"We don't even have access to get your information unless you call 911," explained Nantz.

She's an advocate for using the program, regardless if you have a special needs child. Abbey Love is, too. She wants more families to register for Smart 911. As the founder of the group Police Autism Community Training, she understands the need for clear communication between first responders and people with autism.

"Giving those extra details are going to make that situation more likely to turn out positive," says Love. "One of the challenges with people with autism is they can't always communicate their wants and needs. They're not always going to tell somebody they don't know that they're hurt, that they're in trouble, that they need some sort of support."

Smart 911 is available for families in Lexington, Winchester, Frankfort, and Jessamine County.