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911 Location Failures

New data says your cell phone could fail you in an emergency situation. Information collected in June by the FCC shows dispatchers in North Carolina were unable to accurately locate half the wireless users who dialed 911 for help.

911 calls made from landlines are automatically attached to an address. However, the FCC estimates that 70% of 911 calls now come from cell phones.

It's a problem that was uncovered by the Federal Communication Commission and Find Me 911 Coalition. Both agencies say cell phone carriers are using cheaper GPS technology that is limiting the information that can be obtained from your wireless device.

"Some have tried to blame this problem on 9-1-1 operators for not rebidding to request more accurate location information, but that is not fair to our 9-1-1 professionals, said Jamie Barnett, former Chief of the FCCs Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition. Emergency personnel need accurate location data as soon as a 9-1-1 call arrives, both to help route it to the appropriate call center and to respond to the emergency, particularly if the call is cut off before a location can be given.  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."

News 13 wanted to see if this was actually true. Emergency Services Director for Buncombe County, Jerry Vehaun, dialed 911 from his cell phone. The call was made from inside the dispatch center on Erwin Hills Road but the address given to the dispatcher was 1570 Spivey Mountain Road. That's three miles away from Vehaun.

Dispatcher Max King says there's no record of anyone dying in Buncombe County because of inaccurate cell phone information.  Other counties and states though have had issues. The FCC says it is proposing changes that could make it faster and easier to help wireless callers who need help.


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