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MSP Airport pioneers ‘Vitals’ app to help travelers with certain conditions

MSP Airport (MSP) became the first airport in the country Wednesday (June 29) to begin using a smartphone app that lets police officers know if a traveler – or anyone who has signed up for the app – has a medical condition, disability or other condition they want others to know about. Having this information in advance will better prepare officers when responding to emergency calls.

The Vitals app – via a smart phone or a tiny "beacon" worn by an individual – provides a subscriber's medical conditions and/or disabilities to 911 dispatchers and/or police officers. It functions like a digital medical ID bracelet but with much more information and is another tool in MSP's efforts to help ensure all travelers at MSP can Travel Confidently.

The MSP Airport Police Department (APD) joins a growing list of first responders – locally and across the country – that are using the app. The app is ideally suited for use at airports where travelers from around the world are already anxious about flying and police officers are frequently called to different situations daily.

An 'amazing' app
"This app is amazing," said Sgt. Keith Boser, who attended a press conference at Terminal 1 with Deputy Chief Craig Olson, Lt. Dave Karsnia and Metropolitan Airports Commission COO Roy Fuhrmann to announce the partnership with Vitals Aware Services. "Our officers can't wait to have it."

Janeé Harteau, president and CEO of Vitals Aware Services and the former police chief for the city of Minneapolis, also spoke at the press conference.

"The vitals app is a game changer," said Harteau. "It truly has saved lives."

"The Vitals App will help create a sense of trust, ease and safety for all individuals while traveling, and help us appropriately respond to travelers' needs in a caring and effective manner," said Matt Christenson, chief of the Airport Police Department.

How it works
A subscriber to the Vitals app, or a caregiver, voluntarily enters the medical condition of the person using the app. Already, more than 6,000 people have loaded their profiles with conditions ranging from PTSD to autism and from dementia to epilepsy.

One such entry states, "I am a 36-year-old married veteran who served two terms as an officer in Afghanistan. … I am currently a patient at the Veteran Affairs mental health clinic as I have a very short fuse…"

A different entry for a 77-year-old woman with dementia who has two children who live in far away states, "Loses short term memory and forgets what she is doing. Wanders at night (sundowner)."

When a police officer encounters someone with the Vitals app on their mobile device or who is wearing a Vitals beacon, they receive a notification through the app on their phone that they are within 80 feet of someone who has signed up for the service.

Sgt. Boser said about half of the APD's police officers now have the app on their department-issued smart phones and have received training on how to use it. The remaining officers will be fully equipped and trained by mid-July.

Vitals was launched in Saint Paul, in 2017 in partnership with the Autism Association of Minnesota. More than 6,000 individuals have profiles on the app, and more than 50 law enforcement agencies in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio use the software.

Related information

Vitals App helps MSP Airport police serve travelers with specific challenges -- Star Tribune, June 29, 2022