November 11, 2013

Jamie Barnett quoted by TR Daily on need to improve location accuracy for wireless 911 calls

2 min

In a November 8, 2013 article, TR Daily quoted Venable partner Jamie Barnett on the problem of accurately determining a 911 caller's location when they call from indoors. In a November 7 Find Me 911 Coalition press release, Barnett, who is Director of the coalition, drew on data issued by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) showing the location accuracy of 911 calls in Texas, which showed that more than two-thirds of the calls to 911 emergency centers from wireless phones did not include accurate information necessary to find a caller in crisis. Responding to the findings, Barnett said “If you use a cell phone, you probably think that a 911 operator can find you if you call in an emergency. In Texas, that assumption could be fatally flawed.”

He added that “For two-thirds of wireless callers in Texas, the emergency call arrived without accurate information on the caller’s location, putting lives at risk when callers don’t know or can’t share their location. The FCC should take immediate action to ensure that all 911 callers can be immediately located in a crisis, whether indoors or outside, in a rural or urban setting.”

The FCC data also targeted 911 calls in Harris County, TX where 911 operators increased location accuracy from wireless calls by 24% after “rebidding” – a process where, after 30 seconds, operators request location information again from the wireless carrier. Commenting on the Harris County data, Barnett said "Some have tried to blame the 911 operators [for gaps in locating wireless callers], but that is a diversion from the impact of these data, and it is not fair to the 911 professionals.” He said “this cannot simply be chalked up to ‘rebidding’ to request location information again during the call. Emergency personnel need accurate location data as soon as a 911 call arrives, both to ensure that it is routed to the appropriate call center and to respond to the emergency, particularly if the call is cut off before a location can be given.”

“A 911 operator shouldn't have to wait and rebid and wait and rebid to hope they eventually get accurate location information,” Barnett said. “This is a growing national crisis, and we urge the FCC and carriers to work with us to adopt indoor location requirements and solve this dangerous problem."