911 cell calls can be located now - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

911 cell calls can be located now

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November 5, 2007

Albany --  The Albany 911 Center can now track almost all cell phone calls to their emergency center, pinpointing the location of the call to about 10 feet. The cell phone mapping is expected to make emergency response time better, and help the 911 Center handle when it gets a glut of emergency calls.   

We place a 911 call on a cell phone. And within 20 seconds an emergency dispatcher at the 911 Center has the location of the cell phone pinpointed on a map. This cell phone tracking will be able to locate callers to 911, who often can't tell emergency responders where they are.

911 Communications Manager Steve Butler said "It's very important in an emergency situation that we know where that individual is when they are calling. A lot of times during that period, it's an emergency, and they are stressed, and they lose sense of tracking."

The cell phone calls to the Albany 911 center have increased dramatically in the last five years, as more people move away from land lines. So being able to track those calls in emergency will save lives. Another problem for the 911 Center, the number of calls they get from emergencies like a car wreck, can overwhelm the system. This tracking program can help operators know which calls are reporting the same event, because they are coming from the same location.

"Now we can actually make a logical decision with regard to that, we receive a phone call and we know that's a particular car wreck, the other phone calls that come that same vicinity we can pretty much determine they are calling about the same incident," said Butler.

Called the Phase Two 911 program, all cell phone companies are required to have their equipment linked by December 31st. A majority of the cell phone tracking system is already operating, and emergency responders say they know it will save lives.

Albany and Lee County 911 Centers have worked on problems with emergency calls from the Albany Mall area going to Lee County's center. The cell phone tower in the Mall area has been vectored, so that calls from Dougherty County will go to the Albany 911 Center, and calls to 911 from Lee County will go to Lee County 911.

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