"Smart911" aims to protect trick or treaters for Halloween

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COLUMBIA- Columbia parent Mendy Diel's 11-year-old daughter will transform into Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games when she goes trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Diel said parents in her neighborhood take a couple precautions when trick-or-treating.

"We pair up into groups," Diel said. "The kids also have neon lights on their costumes, they have flashlights, and we try to keep everything reflective."

Columbia/Boone County Public Safety Joint Communications wants parents and residents to be aware of another safety precaution they can take this year. It involves a partnership with a website called Smart911.

"Smart911 is a third party service where citizens can actually sign up for a profile," Operations manager Brian Maydwell said. "They can provide any information they would like, it could be a name, an address, or a certain medical condition they have."

Maydwell said the information gets stored in a secure server. Then, when a citizen dials 911, their profile will come up on the dispatch computers immediately. This lets dispatchers access a person's information quickly.

"They're able to see all the information you've provided before or as the incident happened or something is going in. It can help them mitigate the situation you might be in," Maydwell said, "whether you're in a car accident, you're allergic to things, or you have a medical condition, or your child goes missing."

With Halloween coming up, Maydwell said Joint Communications wants to get the word out that Smart911 allows people to input information and a picture of their child as an extra safety precaution.

"It's a nice reminder, because a lot of people are focused on kids and sending their kids out and things like that," Maydwell said.

Columbia parent Chris Gadsen, who has four children, said he would consider doing it.

"If it is something the police are doing or the city is doing, it's secure and official that sounds okay," Gadsen said.

Maydwell said other Halloween safety tips include making sure a child's costume is safe, using a buddy system, and knowing who children are trick-or-treating with.