January 09, 2014

Associated Press quotes Jamie Barnett on flaws in locating wireless 911 calls in North Carolina

2 min

In a January 3, 2014 article, the Associated Press quoted Venable partner Jamie Barnett on the flaws in locating 911 calls made from wireless phones. Data submitted by the North Carolina 911 Board to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) showed that almost half of all North Carolina calls received by 911 emergency centers in June 2013 came from wireless phones with inaccurate information on the caller’s location.

Barnett, who directs the Find Me 911 Coalition, a group representing emergency responders and 911 dispatchers, said “If you use a cellphone, you probably think that a 911 operator can find you if you call in an emergency. Unfortunately, that assumption could be fatally flawed.” Most dispatchers locate 911 wireless phone calls through Global Position System (GPS) technology, but the satellite navigation system doesn't work as well indoors, which presents a challenge to first responders, he added.

“The carriers are saying, ‘We're using the most accurate technology.’ And that's true as long as there is an unobstructed view of the satellite," Barnett said. “The problem is that you don't go out in the field to call 911. You call 911 from where you are. So if you're having a heart attack from your apartment in Manhattan, or you have some kind of industrial accident in a plant with some kind of metal roof, you're not going to leave there to call 911 - and you're not going to get a GPS signal." He said it is the FCC’s responsibility to push companies to use the new technology.

The story was published in multiple publications including the News & Observer, The State, and Miami Herald among others.