The Dallas Morning News
When someone calls 911, seconds count. That’s why the first question a 911 dispatcher asks is: “What is the emergency address?” »
Ten years ago, if someone called and didn’t know the address, emergency call centers would send police officers with their sirens on and tell the caller, “Tell us when you can hear the Mermaid “.
This is because the call center can only base a caller’s location on cell towers, which can cover an area of up to 10 miles. Not only did police and paramedics struggle to find people, but calls were also routed to the wrong call center.
Today, with the advent of GPS data from cell phones, carriers are partnering with call centers.
Dallas-based AT&T says that by the end of this month, all emergency calls made through the cellphone carrier will be routed to emergency call centers based on the phone’s GPS data instead. than on cell tower data. Using GPS data, a caller can be located within 50 meters of their actual position, which is about the length of an Olympic swimming pool.
“It’s a pretty big change,” said Terry Goswick, executive director of the North Texas Emergency Communications Center, which serves Addison, Carrollton, Coppell and Farmers Branch.
AT&T customers don’t have to do anything to receive the service, which AT&T worked on with cloud solutions company Intrado of Omaha, Neb.
Previously, if you were calling from Addison, your call may have been misrouted to a nearby center in Carrollton or Dallas based on cell towers, meaning your call had to be forwarded. Rerouting calls can take 25-30 seconds, critical time in fire and medical emergencies.
Call rerouting is not uncommon.
Intrado said about 10% of wireless calls and up to 50% of calls in public safety areas where state, county or city lines overlap should be transferred to a call center. different calls.
The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, which serves 13 Dallas-Fort Worth counties, has more than 40 public safety response points that can answer your call.
AT&T’s deployment will save the life of someone in a traffic accident or someone caught in a fire at a hotel whose address is unknown, Goswick said. and then there are medical emergencies in which someone calls but cannot speak, such as when they have heart disease or a seizure.
“Now when they call 911, we’re going to be able to find them,” Goswick said.
Previously, it was easier to find people when all calls came from a fixed landline. But now, 80% of 911 calls are made on cordless phones, according to the National Emergency Number Association. and there are a lot of emergency calls every year – 240 million in the US every year, 20 million of them from Texas.
John Snapp, vice president of technology at Intrado, said AT&T’s new technology means emergency calls get to the right call center faster and more often.
“Seconds really mean the difference between life and death sometimes if you think of someone who may have had a heart attack or a shooting or a fire,” Snapp said.
A company sharing location data often raises data protection concerns. AT&T says processing is only triggered when a caller places a call to 911, and location data is only shared directly with public safety call centers.
Chris Sambar, executive vice president of AT&T Network, said the process happens automatically in the background. AT&T sends the phone information to Intrado and Intrado obtains the device information and sends it to the call center. Neither AT&T nor Intrado sees a caller’s location.
While other carriers have deployed similar technology, AT&T’s domestic technology can be used without requiring call centers to upgrade their systems, Sambar said.
For example, Verizon states on its website that it offers enhanced 911 services, including someone’s estimated latitude and longitude, to centers that have upgraded their equipment. In 2020, T-Mobile launched location-based routing on its network in Texas and Washington state.
“AT&T generally leads the charge when it comes to 911,” Goswick said.