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Making a 911 call from a cell phone could be a risk


POSTED: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 6:12pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 6:13pm

Crime and emergencies can happen anywhere. But with fewer Americans relying on landlines for communication, It makes it a little more difficult for dispatchers to determine an exact location if you do need immediate help and don’t know where you are. "If you're calling 9-1-1 it's already an emergency, and in an emergency minutes count, definitely, but seconds count in many cases, “ Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith tells KETK news.

If you call 9-1-1 from a landline, dispatch will receive an address to your exact location and the response time is typically very fast. However, if you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the only information dispatch is able to receive will be an approximate location based on 'x' 'y' coordinates from the nearest cell phone tower ping.

Bill Morales, District Director for the 911 division of Smith County and Tyler says., "When the cell phone first came out we couldn't get any location, now we've got it down to couple of football fields away."

However, not having an exact GPS location could pose a problem in an emergency, especially if children are on the other end making the call. Sheriff Smith says,"They know how to dial 9-1-1 but they may not know their physical address or numeric address is."

Cell phone providers like Verizon, and Sprint determine how much information dispatchers receive. Some providers give a name, number and an approximate location, about 300 yards, of an emergency location. But there are still cell phone companies that only provide a call back number and name, no location at all.

Morales says your best bet is, o your best bet. "It's always advisable to keep a landline, because that is a very specific address." He says the Emergency 911 District is always working to improve and upgrade software to ensure the safety of those who live in the area.

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