City offers “emergency profiles” so police can tailor their responses to people with mental health issues and other special situations like allergies and languages spoken. Only 4,100 of 5.3 million people have made use of the system.
More than a year has passed since the launch of a promising new 911 feature that could provide Houston-area first responders with information from entrance gate codes to mental health issues. Yet the program has only a few thousand users out of a service area with 5.3 million residents. Despite the city’s police chief touting it on Twitter – Houston’s dispatch center doesn’t have access to the profiles, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network, the nation’s fourth largest, launched the “emergency profiles” program in May 2016. Residents can fill out an online form with data that dispatchers pass on to police, to firefighters and to EMS personnel who answer 4 million emergency calls a year.
These profiles hold the promise of helping police and others tailor their responses for people with mental health issues, possibly averting situations such as a police officer’s 2012 fatal shooting of a mentally ill double amputee in a wheelchair. The program, which the regional network said cost $150,000, allows residents to associate wireless numbers with a precise street address and to convey mundane but useful details about allergies, languages spoken, vehicles, specific street addresses and even pets. “This is a great tool to let us know about special circumstances you want us to be aware of before we arrive,” tweeted Police Chief Art Acevedo. Yet since the introduction of the feature more than a year ago, the regional network counts only 4,100 users.