Kentucky 911 Centers Bridge Cellphone Location ID Gap with Pilot Program

Mobile phones have posed an issue for dispatchers when it comes to identifying a caller’s location. A new pilot program in Owensboro-Daviess County will help 911 centers solve that problem.

by James Mayse, Messenger-Inquirer / October 2, 2017

(TNS) -- Owensboro-Daviess County, Ky., 911 dispatch will launch a pilot program in the next few weeks, which Director Paul Nave says will improve the center's ability to locate a person calling 911 from a cellphone.

Location accuracy of people using cellphones in homes and buildings has long been an issue for 911 centers, Nave said. While dispatchers get an accurate location from 911 calls made outside on cellphones, a cell call from inside a structure only gives an approximate location. If a person having a heart attack calls 911 from inside their home on a cellphone, dispatchers can only place the location of the call within a 150-meter radius.

The problem only arose when people began replacing landline telephones -- which gave exact locations -- with cellphones, Nave said.

"We really went back in time," when people switched to cellphones and 911 lost location accuracy, Nave said. An app from your favorite pizza chain knows your address, but "what frustrates me is the location has not kept up" for 911 centers, he said.

"The assumption is that we know your location" when a person calls 911 from a cellphone in a structure, "and that's just not true," Nave said.

Nave said the city-county dispatch center is the first agency in the state to partner with California-based Rapid S.O.S. on the location service. When the pilot program launches in three to four weeks, people will be able to download a phone app that will better pinpoint where a person with a cellphone is calling from, Nave said.

"This is truly a milestone for the 911 community, narrowing that 150 meters down to just meters," Nave said.

Although officials won't know how accurate the system is until they begin testing it, Nave said the hope is that accuracy will improve to "seven to 10 meters or less."

"It uses internet-based technology to locate you," Nave said Monday.

The dispatch center will be ready to sign people up for the app in about a month, Nave said. There is no cost for the service to residents or the city and county, he said.

Sometime over the next several months, the Rapid S.O.S. system is expected to work on all cellphones, regardless of whether people have downloaded the app, Nave said.

"Our goal is in six to eight months, it will be deployed in this region by commercial phone carriers," he said. "You won't have to worry about the app."

©2017 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.