This month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation launched two new programs for state residents, both of which allow residents to provide emergency contact and medical information to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

Like other states nationwide, Pennsylvania launched Yellow Dot – a free, opt-in program that lets citizens keep a yellow envelope containing medical and emergency contact information inside the glove box of their vehicle. Participants also receive a yellow sticker, which is placed on the vehicle's rear window so if the driver crashes or is unresponsive, emergency response personnel know to locate the yellow envelope containing the critical information and take proper action, according to Erin Waters, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Transportation.

To participate, Pennsylvania residents can obtain folders at the state’s driver license centers, the Department of Aging and Health, and area agencies on aging across the state and in regional health offices. They can also request the envelope be sent to them via yellowdot.pa.gov.

In addition to the Yellow Dot program, the DOT launched a new database for participants' emergency contacts. Participants can submit up to two emergency contacts so if they're hurt or incapacitated, law enforcement personnel can run their driver’s license or state ID and pull the information to contact the individuals listed.

“Let’s say you’re walking your dog some night and you have a heart attack, and for some reason you’re rendered unconscious,” Waters said. “If law enforcement is called and they find you, they will run your ID or your license. They’ll key it into the system or call a person who can key it in for them, and the emergency contact information will come up.”

Individuals can register on behalf of friends or family members if they have the available information. Waters said for individuals who may not be as comfortable with a computer, they may have someone else register for them.

The database interfaces with J-Net – the Pennsylvania Justice Network, which the majority of law enforcement departments have authority to access, Waters said. Because the database connects with J-Net, the information in the database is not accessible to the public.

Waters said since the database's deployment, there have not yet been reports of law enforcement accessing the database.

According to the DOT, “soft” costs were needed to implement the emergency contact database, amounting to roughly $135,000. The database was developed using a combination of the state DOT staff and on-site contractors.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.