Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

California 911 Calls Not Offering Location Info

August 14, 2013

911 calls tend to occur in situations of high stress or danger, making it difficult for many people to carry on a coherent conversation with dispatchers. However, location information that could be conveyed via mobile phone signals, thus saving the caller from having to articulate his location in order to receive help, is not being sent in far too many situations.

The California National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA) recently filed data with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that showed that more than half of all California wireless 911 calls in five geographic areas were being delivered without location information. This lack of information is especially startling in situations in which a caller is confused, lost, unconscious or unable to clearly communicate with dispatchers.

Location data is divided into “Phase I” and “Phase II” categories. The CALNENA data found that less than 45 percent of over 1.5 million emergency calls were registered with Phase II data, the more accurate form of location data; the remainder of the calls were filed with Phase I data, which indicated the nearest cell tower to the caller but no further specifics.

While the FCC requires accurate location information to be provided by wireless carriers for all emergency calls, the data found that the requirement was not being met with enough frequency. Different carriers produced different levels of effectiveness in conveying location in emergency calls; location itself also played a role. The most dramatic declines in conveying location information were found in urban areas like San Francisco; likely the drop is due to callers being indoors or between tall buildings where GPS functionality slips.

Danita Cromback, president of CALNENA and communications manager for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement, “When 911 dispatchers can’t find callers in crisis, lives are at risk.” Indeed, without knowing a caller’s location in a timely manner, 911 professionals face serious impediments to acting productively, and first responders lose time in reaching a troubled situation.

The statistics are certainly eye-opening – just one more reason to take extra care in our everyday lives.

Edited by Rich Steeves