When responding to an emergency, every second counts. In an effort to reduce response time, New Canaan has become one of the first towns in Connecticut to adopt an online database of its citizens for enhanced public safety.

With Smart911, residents can create a free profile for their household that includes information they want police to have in the event of an emergency. If an emergency takes place, their profiles are immediately displayed to 911 dispatchers following a call to police. The profiles, officials say, will allow for a better understanding of the callers and the potential emergency.

"We are excited to offer this life-saving service to our community," First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said last week. "Allowing our citizens to provide vital details to first responders prior to an emergency enables us to reduce our response times and, ultimately, save lives."

The national database, already in use in more than 1,000 different communities across 37 states, can include information on all family members and pets, addresses, phone numbers, medical conditions and disabilities, vehicle details and photos. Users can add as much information as they wish by logging on to www.smart911.com. The information is then relayed to response teams in the field, which officials say should enable crews to better understand emergency situations.

"This system would be a huge advantage in the event that we are dispatched to a possible fire in a house that has invalids in it," Fire Chief Jack Hennessey said. "We would be alert to the fact that there's a possibility that a person in the house cannot self-evacuate and we would be extra careful to make sure that everyone is out of the house. If we do that in advance, we can make sure that everybody is accounted for, that no one is missing."

Digital photos, he said, can be added to allow firefighters a "pre-arrival" view of the house to prepare their response to the situation.

The system, which was created by Massachusetts-based Rave Mobile Safety, is credited for saving the life of a Michigan man in a house fire a few weeks ago. Although his 911 call was not completed, dispatchers used the safety profile to locate the caller, who was barely conscious when responders found him lying in a flame-filled living room, according to a PR Newswire report.

Newtown was the first municipality in Connecticut to adopt the system in 2012. With Bridgeport joining the list last summer, New Canaan becomes the third community in the state to launch Smart911.

When it comes to privacy, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said Rave Mobile Safety guarantees people's personal information is protected from unauthorized disclosure.

"It's only available to us," the chief said. "We're the only ones that can view it when a call comes up, it's entirely private and secure."

Krolikowski is hopeful the database will help his staff handle critical scenarios more efficiently.

"What citizens may not realize is that we usually have limited information when responding to an emergency call," he said in a news release. "If a resident is unable to speak, or often times, too emotional to remember, even the simplest of critical details, a safety profile provides that information. For example, a photo of a child can give police a timely advantage in the event of a missing child."

"It's not uncommon for us to go on a call where somebody has said they haven't seen their loved one in x number of days and they want us to check, so we go there with no information at all," Krolikowski added during an interview. "If we have this database with their medical needs and their information, we can send more officers, we can send more ambulances, we can send what we need based on whatever the situation might be."

Smart911, officials claim, gives a voice to those who may not be able to communicate. Emergency responders can, for instance, be informed about pre-existing conditions, such as allergies, that may affect on-scene treatment.

In New Canaan, 911 calls are first received by the Police Department. Fire emergencies are transferred to a secondary dispatch center -- which is at the Wesport Fire Department. Because Westport does not have Smart911, New Canaan officers would be able to send a link to the fire dispatchers so they can also access the information, Hennessey said.

There's no charge to create a profile on the website. Krolikowski said the system is being funded through the town's emergency management budget.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson