Shaving seconds, minutes off emergency response time: Active 911

MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - In an emergency, every second counts.

Agencies across Horry and Georgetown Counties use a tool to shave seconds, even minutes off the time it takes first responders to get to you. It's called Active 911.

If you call 911 in an emergency, the program alerts on-duty and on-call first responders on their cell phones and iPads that you need help. It shows them exactly where you are, what the emergency is, and how to find you.

"If somebody starts choking, or they're having trouble breathing, or can't breathe, every second counts with oxygen," says Captain Jerry Howerton with Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue. That's why he spearheaded the effort to get his agency the technology.

The department was the first in the area with Active 911. Now, all agencies in Georgetown County have it. Horry County Fire Rescue is also working on getting it – that should happen when the dispatch service is updated in a few months.

When dispatch gets the call, the worker who answers types in notes and the address, and Active 911 disperses it across the system to all users. Then, Active 911 uses Google Maps to guide them there..

Even on-call first responders see the details about the emergency, and Captain Howerton says that makes a huge difference when a life is hanging in the balance. "Because we've been closer, we're able to help get them comfort and start care on them prior to the transport crew, or an engine company getting there."

If there is a serious structure fire, Active 911 will page even off-duty firefighters. It pinpoints every fire hydrant around the address, so firefighters don't have to flip through a book, call around, or try to remember the nearest water source. They can start deciding how to fight the fire before they even get to it.

Plus, the software shows them calls coming in from Georgetown County and Horry County, so if they're dispatched to a fire outside their jurisdiction, they get exact directions.

"There's nothing like it," Captain Howerton says. "To have this new technology that can pinpoint you in relation to a call now, and take some of the guess work out of who may be closer, who may not be closer, and actually have those folks get to them quickly as possible… it's worked wonders for us."

Sounds pricey, right? Wrong. It costs about a dollar a month for each device. Each fire engine at the Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Department is equipped with an iPad. Each one has Active 911 installed, and employees and volunteers can also get it on their personal devices, and the fire department pays for it all.

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