“9-1-1, what’s your location?”
It’s a phrase we’ve heard hundreds of times on TV shows and movies. In real life though, have you ever considered the possibility that this question – one that can mean the difference between life and death – may be hard for the caller to answer? In an emergency, you may not be able to speak. If you’re in a car accident, you may not know where you are. In a disaster, your surroundings may be confusing.
That’s where a new location-based routing feature we call “Locate Before Route” comes in. AT&T, in collaboration with Intrado, rolled out a first-of-its-kind 911 upgrade in New Mexico that will make it easier for emergency personnel to find and send help to wireless callers.
Roughly 80% of 911 calls today are made from cell phones. Before location-based routing, a call would ping a cell phone tower and connect to the dispatch center closest to that tower. But here’s the thing: That cell tower could be up to 10 miles away. In fact, it could be in a different county, making it difficult for dispatchers to pinpoint exactly where the caller is calling from.
Here’s how the new technology works:
Instead of pinging the closest cell tower, the GPS in your phone connects with the closest 911 dispatch center, meaning emergency operators can locate you within about 55 yards of your position. That’s about half a football field.
This kind of accuracy means public safety can respond faster, especially in situations when a 911 wireless caller doesn’t know or can’t disclose their location.
AT&T is the first wireless carrier to launch location-based routing for all 911 call centers nationwide, whether they’re operating on older technology or NextGen 911. The best part, AT&T customers in New Mexico and across the country now have access to this service – no action is necessary.
AT&T’s commitment to public safety is longstanding. Following the events of Sept. 11, we worked to create FirstNet – the only nationwide communications platform dedicated to public safety and first responders. With nationwide location-based 911 call routing, we are providing our customers with the quickest, most accurate way to call emergency personnel for help when it’s most needed.
It is our hope other wireless carriers will join us in aiding emergency personnel to reach their customers faster in times of crisis by adding location-based routing to their service as well. The impact of this upgrade could be the single most critical, positive improvement for the safety of our communities since the invention of cell phones.