PennDOT website stores drivers' emergency contact information
When paramedic Josh Stuart learned of an online method for police officers to quickly track down his loved ones in an emergency, he didn't think twice about signing up.
“I'm a firm believer that any information is better than none at all,” said Stuart, a paramedic with Medical Rescue Team South Authority, based in Mt. Lebanon, who has more than 20 years of experience.
“I've been on too many cases where even public safety people thought they'll know me, they'll know enough about me. But we keep some things to ourselves. It's good to have an additional route.”
This month, PennDOT started a program that allows drivers to upload emergency contact information to a database that police can access. About 700 people statewide have added their information since the service started Nov. 9, PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight said.
“If you're in a situation where you can't speak, the police can easily access your emergency contact information,” she said. “It will save time.”
Police in Ross, Mt. Lebanon and Munhall posted information about the program to their departments' Facebook pages and are urging residents to sign up.
Participants log in via PennDOT's secure drivers services web page, using their driver's license number, last four digits of their Social Security number and birthdate.
They then are taken to another page where they can list the name, address, email address and cell, home and work phone numbers for two contacts, such as a spouse, sibling or child.
“If we were able to enter someone's information in and pull up the emergency contacts they provided, that would be something that would be very beneficial,” Mt. Lebanon police Lt. Aaron Lauth said. “We are able to track down some, but not always as timely as we would like it to be.”
Lauth said officers could use the service when they respond to crashes or when they find people who have died in their homes and don't have relatives nearby.
“It can prove difficult to find someone quickly,” Lauth said. “You don't think of it happening, but it's definitely tough to notify next of kin if there's no relatives around.”
As more people get rid of their landline phones, it can become difficult to reach family members in an emergency, Ross police Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.
“The first thing that comes to mind is a car accident,” Kohlhepp said. “We can contact loved ones to let them know what happened so they can get to the hospital to be with their loved ones.”
Bethel Park police Chief John Mackey, president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, forwarded information on the PennDOT program to local departments and said he plans to upload his emergency contacts into the database.
“I had a family member several years ago involved in a very bad accident,” Mackey said. “Fortunately, a friend knew where I worked. I was imagining if my sister's friend didn't know that, how would anybody get hold of me? I think it's a really good thing.”
Stuart, who works nights on the weekends, said he often encounters patients who are unable to communicate important information. Paramedics will have to ask police officers to look for the emergency contact information, but he said he still thinks it will help.
“It's a good idea,” Stuart said. “It's just like a medical alert bracelet. It's another tool to help the patient, and even to help the family.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Christmas in Western Pa. predicted to be ‘slightly white’
- Children treated to gifts, peaceful holiday party at Lincoln-Lemington church
- Pittsburgh police break up customer fights over Air Jordan 11 shoes
- Newsmaker: Patrick Juola
- Tree recycling offered at Allegheny County parks
- Butler legislator gives weekly GOP address
- Pittsburgh adjusting to new bicycle lane, ‘stop boxes’
- Brashear High ‘little libraries’ program rolls out
- Environmental teachers glean new ideas from networking
- Newsmaker: Cindy Marzock
- Pittsburgh fraud case, Uganda-based counterfeiting racket linked