Franklin Co. 911 Center can track most cell calls

Location can be identified within a few feet

Location can be identified within a few feet

January 16, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. ? The Franklin County 911 Center is now able to track most cell phone calls to the location of the caller, regardless of whether the person is able to speak or knows where they are, according to the County Commissioners Office.

"Experience tells us that many times, during emergency situations, people are too excited to give (a) good location description or ... don't even know where they are," Commissioner Bob Thomas said in a press release from the county.

Using Global Information System (GIS) mapping and compatible 911 computer-aided dispatch software, the caller's location can be identified within a few feet, the release stated.

"They've been testing it to make sure it works," Thomas said Wednesday. The system became operational last year and already proved to be of benefit to one woman who called 911, he said.


Thomas said he was told by Director of Emergency Services Jerry Flasher that a woman from out of the area called with an emergency.

"She didn't know how to tell anybody where she was," Thomas said.

"Are you in a park next to a swing?" asked the dispatcher, Thomas said. The woman was in Memorial Park in Waynesboro, Pa., Thomas said.

County in process of upgrading system

Flasher told the commissioners about the system during a tour of the 911 center last week, Thomas said.

The county has been in the process of upgrading its 911 communications system, both with a new interoperable public safety UHF radio system and the GIS mapping for cell phone calls, Thomas said. The county also plans to move its 911 Center from the basement of the courthouse annex to a building in the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

"That's going out for bids soon. It could be operational later this year or early next year," Thomas said.

A few years ago, a Chambersburg man was pinned under a large riding mower when it tipped over into a pit on his property. The man was able to dial 911 more than once on his cell phone, but could not speak.

The technology of the time did not allow for the point of origin of the call to be identified by dispatchers and the man died within a few minutes.

"That's exactly the kind of situation that could be prevented next time," Thomas said. "Sometimes people can dial a phone but can't speak because of a medical condition or injuries."

Things to know about 911:

· Users need to have an updated cell phone. Most new models are 911 compliant, but cell phone owners can contact their carrier to be certain.

· All but one cell provider, AT&T, is 911 compliant. "They will be compliant soon is what we've been advised," Thomas said.

· After a call, the caller location "refreshes" every 15 seconds and the caller's exact location is displayed on the 911 GIS mapping system.

· More than half of the calls to 911 are made from cell phones.

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