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Suffolk County Officials Urge Residents To Check Out 'Smart 911' App To Help Emergency Responders Save Lives

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - You can now give 911 dispatchers a lot more lifesaving information without saying a word.

A free app called Smart 911 is being used by police on Long Island and many other municipalities across the nation.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports, 911 is getting smarter.

Most calls come in from mobile phones, providing dispatchers with little information about you or your location. So Suffolk County is joining a growing number of municipalities offering the free app Smart 911.

"You know when the emergency happens, seconds matter," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

You create a profile, deciding how much to share, to help first responders help you: Medical information, disabilities, bedroom locations, description of pets, and license plate numbers.

"Someone's left the house in their car and they didn't come back on time," said Acting Suffolk Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron. "So one of the first questions we always ask is 'Can we have their license plate number?' And very often people don't have that."

You can also text 911. Your profile will provide potentially lifesaving information in the event of domestic violence.

Suffolk Police are phasing out antiquated panic alarms.

A comfort in an emergency. But how comfortable are we handing over so much personal information?

In Nassau County, with nearly 500,000 households, just over 12,000 have signed up.

"My wife is disabled, so that's one of the reasons why I'm in favor of it," one person said.

"I would be a little leery, I think, of giving out all that information," another said.

A company spokesperson says it is available nationwide in 3,500 municipalities.

"Your information is made only available to 911 call takers and first responders only in the event you call 911. This information is not being sold. This is only for emergency purposes," said Smart 911 spokesperson Stella Vargas.

"If you're on any of the social media platforms, you're already sharing most of your information with people that want to sell you things, so why not share it with people that want to help you," said Patrick Beckley, acting commissioner of Suffolk Fire and Emergency Services.

And it works both ways. It also enables police to send safety information out to residents.

Suffolk encourages residents to explore the free app online, and make a decision that's comfortable for their family.

The service is free to residents, but municipalities pay for it. Suffolk did so with a federal domestic violence grant.

To see if it's available in your area, CLICK HERE to create a safety profile and check availability.

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