Only 1% of Wireless 911 Calls in Washington Provide Accurate Location Information

by Istvan Fekete on July 11, 2014

Only 1% of the 911 calls made from wireless phones in Washington delivered accurate location information, according to new data obtained from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public interest group, Find Me 911 reported.

Looking at the six-month period ending July 2013, the public interest group found that just 39,805 (10.3%) of calls out of 385,341 contained latitude and longitude information. The data “filed with the FCC by the DC Office of Unified Communications last fall,” was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

“These results reveal an alarming public safety crisis,” said Jamie Barnett, former Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition. “When nine in ten emergency callers in our nation’s capital cannot be located on wireless phones, we know that the requirements for location accuracy must be updated immediately. Thankfully, the FCC has proposed a strong new rule to help find wireless callers in need, both indoors and outdoors, and this should eliminate any doubt about the importance of rapid adoption of that rule.”

There are two types of information the 911 calls made from a wireless phone need to contain to provide accurate location info, and so to help the authorities locate individuals in need of emergency help. First there is the “Phase I” info, which shows only the nearest cell tower, but that’s an area too broad to be useful for emergency responders.

Secondly there is the “Phase II” info, which contains the precious latitude and longitude information needed to find a caller. What the above data reveals is that only a little above 10% of the total 911 calls made from a wireless phone contained Phase II information.

The location technology currently used by most wireless carriers depends on direct-line-of-sight satellites, technology which may excel outside cities, but fails in indoor locations or dense urban areas, the group informs. The FCC plans to address this alarming issue with a new rule that requires carriers to provide accurate location data for indoor calls within two years.

In fact, the issue isn’t only US specific: last year the Huffington Post reported that the Canadian 911 service is dated and needs un upgrade to the latest technology for better location tracking.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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