New technology allows 911 dispatch to respond faster

When you or a family member calls 911, it’s important for first responders to find you as quickly as possible. 

Apple Inc. is making an effort to make it easier for iPhone users to be found in an emergency. This is a change that could have an immediate impact here in the Tri-States.

Whether you’re having car problems or in a serious emergency, you want help as soon as possible. But, when you call 911 from cell phones, dispatchers may think you’re miles away from where you actually are. That’s why Apple is stepping in. 

"We live in the country and it would be hard for anyone to locate us in an emergency," Liberty Resident Aimee Hannel said. 

That’s the problem dispatchers have when it comes to answering 911 calls. The location is the most important piece of information they need in order to help you. However, Hannel said it’s not always that easy. 

"So, if I call a serviceman or something, they call me looking for our house because they live in the country, so for them to be able to pinpoint us accurately, would be so helpful and make me feel more comfortable with the emergency services in our area," Hannel said.

Come this fall, a new update for iPhone users will make it so 911 centers can automatically see where you are. 

Director of Adams County 911, Steve Rowlands, said with 80 percent of calls coming from cell phones and while battling cell reception in rural areas, this could be a big help.

"When someone calls from a cell phone or wireless phone and calls 911, we get location information," Rowlands said. "It isn’t always automatic. Sometimes we have to work to get it and the accuracy of that can be very good or very poor." 

Rowlands said using cell towers like they do now, can sometimes lead them miles away from a caller, which is why community members, like Hannel, are waiting for the update.

"I think it’s wonderful that Apple and other people have taken this seriously and that they’re able to get to people faster in a timely manner to help save lives and decrease the treatment time for people in an emergency situation," Hannel said. 

Rowlands said he’s waiting for the update to happen, to see if the dispatch center’s technology will allow them to work with Apple’s new update. 

The update will be available to iPhone users when the new iOS 12 update comes out this fall. 

FCC’s Consumer Guide on 911 Wireless Services (PDF)

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