“This is a public safety crisis, really,” said Admiral Barnett, who heads the Find Me 911 Coalition. The group represents emergency response professionals concerned about failures in the wireless 911 system.
The technology is there to make 911 more efficient, Admiral Barnett explained, it’s just not being used. Right now, 70 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones. If you make a call from outside, your cell’s GPS chip connects with satellites or cell towers so an operator can see your location. Make that call from inside, like the majority of callers do, and the signal doesn’t have a clear path, so it’s not unheard of for a cell phone to skip over cell towers to one in a completely different state.
Admiral Barnett said that is why operators now ask where you are first. But too many callers don’t know or can’t speak during an emergency. Making changes could save 10,000 lives a year, he said.