It is the call you make when seconds matter the most. A call to 911 could be a matter of life or death and you expect first responders to find you fast.
“Uber can fine me, Domino's pizza can find me, and Facebook can fine me, why can't the one of the most important group of people in the world, first responders find me?”
A 911 dispatcher may not be able to pin down an exact location with the way 911 technologies are set up right now.
“Different carriers use different technology to provide location information to 911, so some carriers use the GPS location in your phone, other carriers still use information from multiple tower sites,” said Kyle Kramer, Technical Manager of Communications at Douglas County. That means if you call 911, a cell phone tower will find your location but in some cases a cell tower is the only information provided to dispatchers.
“The only way you can guarantee you will get a response is if you know your location,” said Kramer.
The FCC has mandated by 2021, 911 centers must be able to receive accurate locations from 80% of wireless calls, but 2021 is still four years away.
Until then, one company says they have created a way to give dispatchers your exact location when you call 911.
“The simple flip that Laaser took to that was this device knows a lot about where it is, WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth, all kinds of things,” said Jon Harmer, the Chief Marketing Officer for Laaser Critical Communications. Their system will be embedded inside a cell phone and readily available during an emergency.
When you call 911 with Laaser, the phone will send location data through their cloud system to make sure the correct information gets to dispatchers.
“The design of this system is such that if we don't have a better location fix than the current system, we will just pass it through like normal, and you will get no worse than you are getting today,” said Harmer.
Last February two brothers were killed in a hostage situation in northwest Omaha. When one of the brothers called 911, emergency responders were sent to a cell phone tower nearly a mile away from the home that the 911 call was made.
Harmer said Laaser has completed thousands of tests across the US.
He said that they have spoken with cell phone carriers about their system and the goal is the have it available in phones by the end of the year.
Kramer said while Laaser may work, it will not be the ultimate answer for fixing 911 location accuracy, “The expectation can never be that technology is 100%, you will have to be responsible for knowing your location yourself.”