Knowing a precise location is critical when 911 calls are made – especially if the caller is in a panic or unsure of exactly where they are.
Now, one cellphone carrier is rolling out new technology that will work with any 911 call center to help pinpoint where the caller is located.
When you call 911 on a landline, newer, enhanced emergency response centers using E-911 get the physical location of that phone to aid first responders.
However, with more than 80 percent of 911 calls now being made by mobile phones, locations are not that precise.
That’s because cellphone location depends on which tower receives your call, and those signals can bounce from tower to tower before hitting a 911 call center.
“It could be up to a 10-mile radius at this point,” said Vincent Leaks of AT&T. “That’s not always good for the situation of an emergency.”
North Carolina has thousands of miles of rural roads, many of them with not even a landmark nearby.
If you need 911 assistance, pinpointing your location to an emergency dispatcher on one of those rural roads, especially in the dark, is going to be problematic.
Now AT&T is rolling out a system that narrows down that location gap.
“With the new GPS location on, the 911 operator is able to find and pinpoint your location within 55 yards,” said Leaks.
That’s about half a football field, making it a lot easier for first responders to know where you are when seconds count.
The system works whether a 911 call center is using older technology or has been upgraded to enhanced first responder technology (E-911).
AT&T has been working on this proprietary location system for about four years. It will automatically kick in when AT&T or Cricket customers dial 911 in areas where the company has rolled it out.
Most of our phones, track us in one way or another.
CBS 17 Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia wanted to know if the system uses some of the tracking location stored on the phone and if the AT&T system constantly tracks your phone in case a 911 call needs to be made.
“It does use that, (location information) but it’s also on the public safety network as well,” said Leaks.
He said that means “It’s going to give you privacy. It’s going to give the GPS location that’s inside the phone, but it’s not going to always be open for that data to be given.”
Once a 911 call center makes initial contact with the mobile customer, the location is instantly locked-in so if your battery dies or something happens to the phone the location doesn’t vanish.
AT&T says it’s slowly rolling out the system now and it should be available nationwide to all its customers in all locations by June 27.
The FCC wants all cell carriers to eventually be able to provide mobile phone location data to all 911 centers.