warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Culver City Becomes California’s First City To Use Smart911

Sarah Parvini |
March 4, 2013 | 5:02 p.m. PST

Deputy Editor

Culver City officials unveiled the new "Smart911" system on Monday. (Sarah Parvini/Neon Tommy)
Culver City officials unveiled the new "Smart911" system on Monday. (Sarah Parvini/Neon Tommy)

Culver City officials announced on Monday that the city would begin offering a new emergency response system that shares vital information with 9-1-1 dispatchers through an online profile. The city’s Police Department said it hopes this “Smart911” system will provide more efficient emergency response times.

The city is the first in California to use the free program, which allows residents and to give police and fire officials a “safety profile” of their household. The profile comprises information on how many people live in a home, the location of bedrooms and pertinent medical history of residents; it also includes relevant safety information, like whether or not firearms are stored in the house. 

Smart911 is a voluntary program—a resident has to make the choice to submit his or her information to city safety officials.

“I am proud of our city for taking the initiative to explore the opportunities available to us through technology in order to provide better services to our community,” said Culver City Mayor Andrew Weissman at a press conference. 

When someone in Culver City makes an emergency call, their safety profile is automatically displayed to the 9-1-1 responder, allowing him or her to quickly send the proper teams to the right location. Users can also upload photos to their profiles, which officials said could prove vital in a missing persons case.

"When officers have more information it will expedite the dispatch process," said Police Capt. Dave Tankenson.

Smart911, which was introduced less than two years ago by Rave Mobile Safety, is available in 28 states and more than 350 cities. 

"When citizens elect to put more information in the hands of emergency responders prior to an emergency, they enable faster and more knowledgeable response, protecting not only themselves but their families as well,” Tom Axbey, president of Rave Mobile Safety, said in a statement.

The system has been credited with helping with emergency responses across the country and saving the life of a heart attack victim in Tennessee, officials said.

The Smart911 program will cost the city $25,000 in its first year, according to city officials, with ongoing maintenance fees, which are still being negotiated. 

“A life is priceless,” said Culver City Police Chief Donald Pedersen. “Even at the twice the cost, if we can save a life we're comfortable with that.” 

Pedersen added there wasn’t a particular event that sparked his interest in the program—most Culver City residents don’t have an issue with the city’s emergency response time of three minutes or less. He said he heard about the new system and decided to look into it. 

Culver City’s program comes at a time when the neighboring Los Angeles Fire Department has come under attack for exaggerating its emergency response time and publishing false statistics. Data shows Los Angeles’ response time is often well above the suggested national standard of six minutes.

“Where it's going to save overall [response time] is that it will save time at the call center,” said Culver City Fire Chief Chris Sellers. “The more information they have readily available, the less they ask and the faster they get the appropriate unit in route.”

At the nearby Torrance Police Department, officials praised what they called Culver’s move toward a more direct dialogue between public safety and citizens. 

Sgt. Robert Watt said the Torrance police plan on upgrading their communication system as well by switching to state-of-the-art equipment that will improve emergency response times. 

“The safety profile is a good thing,” Watt said of the Smart911 system. “I think anytime you have more information the better it is.” 



Reach Deputy Editor Sarah Parvini here. Follow her on Twitter



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.