911 cell technology improves - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

911 cell technology improves

July 16, 2007

Albany --   It will soon be easier for emergency workers to find you if you call 911 from your cell phone. Albany's 911 should have all their wireless pinpoint technology in use by the end of the year. The emergency center is ready, and now it's up to the cell phone companies and you to have the technology in place to make this lifesaving service work.

Albany 911 operators are answering a lot more calls. Much of the increase is due to calls from cell phones. Often, callers can't tell first responders where they are. Albany 911 Center Communications Manager Steve Butler says, "A lot of times during a stressful environment individuals have lapses in memory. So when you ask them where they are at, it takes time for them to think about it."

Albany's 911 center says new wireless telecommunication pinpoint systems are being tested now, and should be in use by December. The 12 wireless phone companies that serve Albany have until the end of the year to connect their technology with the 911 center's, so that instant tracking of all cell phone calls will be possible.

A call is made to the 911 center now on a land line, and instantly computers show where the call is coming from. The wireless pinpoint system will do the same for all cell phone calls.

"We'll know exactly where they are at, and be able to provide them the emergency services that they need," Butler said.

You will have to pay an extra fifty cents per month for this enhanced service. All wireless accounts are already paying one dollar for 911 service, and that will be increased to one dollar and 50 cents when it is ready for operation.

But people with older model phones will need to check to see if they need an upgrade. All new wireless phones have G.P.S. Location equipment, but some older models may not. You may have to get a newer phone so that in case of an emergency you won't have to answer those questions to get help.

Right now many 911 calls from the Albany Mall area go first to the Lee County emergency center because of the locations of the cell towers. Albany and Lee County 911 are working together to coordinate their enhanced service so that wireless technology will direct 911 calls to the correct county.

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