City of Gadsden launches new text-based 911 feature to assist callers, first responders

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

The City of Gadsden has launched a new public safety feature called Prepared Assist that gives residents and visitors more options in cases of emergency. The program enables dispatchers to send a link via anonymous text message, which callers can click to share a video feed directly from their phone’s camera with 911.

“We’re excited about this new service because it will allow us to serve our community better, including users with hearing or speech impairments. In emergencies, people are often in shock or unable to describe what they see accurately. Now, Prepared Assist will allow us to see exactly what the caller sees. By livestreaming to 911, we can assess the scene and better coordinate with first responders. It gives us so many more ways to help the caller,” said Liz Lampe, Dispatch Supervisor.

Callers must permit dispatchers to use the Prepared Assist service by clicking the link that enables the program. The link’s permission expires immediately at the end of every call. Access to the caller’s phone is strictly limited to the camera and only after consent is first given by the user. This access does not include the camera roll or any other data stored on the device.

“We want residents and visitors to know we take their safety seriously,” said Gadsden mayor Craig Ford. “In a crisis, this new tool can shave precious time off of 911 calls and get help on the way even quicker. Also, it helps protect our first responders. Having the best information about an emergency can mean the difference between life and death for our men and women, so I am happy to see this new service rolling out for our community.”

Other agencies have used the Prepared Assist program to help find hikers lost in remote locations, identify suspicious individuals, track storm damage, and obtain evidence of domestic violence encounters. Prepared Assist generates the phone number on the caller’s screen and does not show “911” or a local area code.

Prepared Assist also offers real-time translation capabilities in more than 140 languages. This is one of many new 911 features now available to residents and visitors in Gadsden through its Prepared Assist program.

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