WNC emergency officials applaud Apple's plan to launch 911 location feature
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) —
You carry it around every day and everywhere. Now, Apple is making some changes to your iPhone that could save your life.
A software update promises to give first responders a faster and more accurate location on mobile 911 callers.
Right now, when Buncombe County dispatchers get a mobile call, they have to activate what they call Phase 2, which is where their system tries to find the caller's location.
"It’s very helpful,” said Buncombe County 911 dispatcher Lori Robinson. “Especially, if you’re doing a search, if you can get it to go to that Phase 2 and it pinpoints, then you at least know a general area of where that person is."
Robinson said a general location isn’t ideal.
"Getting that address is crucial,” said Robinson. “That's our first piece of information that we strive to get."
Robinson said, with the current system, it can take two or even three attempts to get to Phase 2.
"Those few seconds can make a huge difference in emergency calls," said Robinson.
"It literally is the difference between life and death," said West Buncombe firefighter Claudio Fuentes.
Which is why Apple is introducing a software update that will, hopefully, give first responders those potentially life-saving seconds.
"It’s going to be amazing,” said Fuentes. “A complete game changer."
Especially now in the summer, when Buncombe County dispatchers get upward of 700 calls, more than 80 percent of which are from cell phones.
"Any updates we get here on out is only going to help us and help the public much quicker," said Robinson.
With more and more tourists heading to the mountains, dispatchers said the faster those updates arrive, the better.
"If they can’t provide you with a street name or where they are at, if we can get its ping, then we can get help there faster,” said Robinson.
Apple plans to release the update with its iOS 12 in the fall. Company officials said the information will only be accessible by first responders.
Google is also looking at similar technology for its Android phones.