App gives first responders information on vulnerable people

'RideAlong' makes sure people frequently seen by first responders don't fall through the cracks.
Ambulance, fire, and police respond to a call on a street corner. (Benjamin Voros/Unsplash)
Listen9:56

They're known as 'frequent fliers': the people who call or require 911 emergency services on a regular basis. They may be people dealing with mental health issues, homeless people, or those who struggle with addiction. 

Information about these individuals from past calls can help police and other first responders get them the help they need. RideAlong is a mobile app that aims to get that personalized information to police and first responders quickly, while they're in the field. 

This is a lot of information that already exists in systems that police departments have, but the problem is, it's all stuck in police reports- Meredith Hitchcock

"This is a lot of information that already exists in systems that police departments have," said Meredith Hitchcock the Co-founder and COO of RideAlong. "But the problem is it's all stuck in police reports, and if you have 90 seconds arriving on a call you don't have time to go through a bunch of police reports."   

Meredith Hitchcock is the Co-founder and COO of RideAlong.

That information can cover a variety of topics like the name of a person's case manager, and discussion subjects that have helped calm the person down in the past. 

"For example, I'm based in San Francisco. The [Golden State] Warriors are very popular, so maybe the person likes to talk about the Warriors or Steph Curry and that really helps them calm down," Hitchcock told Spark host Nora Young.  

That information can help officers and first responders de-escalate the situation and offer the best support. In turn, that helps keep people out jail and prevents unnecessary ER visits.

We...saw a 35% reduction in the number of 911 calls-Meredith Hitchcock

"We started with the Seattle Police Department. We've been live there for over a year and saw a thirty-five percent reduction in the number of 911 calls for people who had profiles in the application," said Hitchcock. 

Meredith emphasized that although the technology provides information, humans are at the centre of this project. "Technology is...part of those human relationships that are being built, being part of community policing and engaging communities more effectively."  

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