Separate but Not Equal
When you call 911 from a landline, your
address automatically pops up on a 911
operator's screen. So, even if you are unable
to communicate, or don't know your location,
emergency responders know where to find you.
Cell phones don't work the same.
Cell phones pose unique challenges for summoning
emergency help because they are not associated
with a specific address. If you are unable to communicate
your location, public safety operators can only
rely on the nearest cell towers to triangulate the general
location of the call.
The Federal Communications Commission mandates
public safety answering points to narrow a
mobile 911 caller's location within 50 to 150 meters.
However, real-world results produce ranges of 300
meters. With such limited information, emergency
responders face challenges, particularly in multistory
buildings, dense cities and college campuses.
This unreliable method can lead to delayed emergency
Millions of Americans have disconnected their
land lines and exclusively use cell phones. Public
safety personnel estimate 50 percent of 911 calls originate
from cell phones, and that number is on the rise.
With public safety in mind, the FCC has adopted
rules to better locate wireless 911 calls.
Wireless service providers must:
- Transmit all 911 calls to a public service answering
point, regardless of whether the caller subscribes
to the provider's service or not.
- Provide the PSAP with the telephone number of
the originator of a wireless 911 call and the location
of the cell site or base station transmitting the
call within six months of a valid request.
- By Sept. 11, 2012, provide even more precise
location information, specifically, information
accurate to the closest PSAP. The FCC
established a five-year phase-in period for this
requirement to allow wireless service providers
more time to develop this capability. Wireless
service providers must report to the FCC
annually on their progress in supplying this more
accurate location information.
Help is on the Way
Until these regulations are adopted nationwide, there
exists a solution to merge the disconnect.
E911WERX from WirelessWERX delivers the exact
address, building name, floor and room number of a
wireless 911 caller. The solution pinpoints locations
to within 10 meters.
When an apartment building or school dorm is
monitored by SiteWERX, the wireless network,
nodes containing detailed location information
are installed throughout the building and in each
unit. One node covers approximately 3,000 square
feet. Residents download a WirelessWERX app to a
Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, which pings the node
when a 911 call is made. The node transmits the
location information to the PSAP, allowing emergency
responders to arrive promptly.
Only the Beginning
The forward-thinking management of University
Lofts, a private apartment building catering to University
of Denver students, is aware that many young
people now increasingly rely on cell phones as their
sole means of communication. To provide a safer
environment for residents, the apartment has implemented
SiteWERX to give residents peace of mind.
"Many of our residents are students and their mobile
phone is their primary communication device,"
said Pat Barron, developer of University Lofts. "We
saw that SiteWERX could enhance our residents' security
by transmitting exact location data from mobile
phones to emergency responders, and we wanted
to be the first to provide the service to our residents.
We're committed to creating the safest environment
we can for our residents and are proud to be on the
leading edge of technology."
University Lofts offers SiteWERX free to its residents.
The network connects directly into the Denver
911 police center and is monitored 24 hours a
day, seven days a week. The solution also allows 911
operators to send communications directly to residents'
cell phones via voice, text or SMS, notifying
them of emergencies and allowing them to evacuate
an area quickly.
"We are excited to work with University Lofts to
create the safest environment possible for their residents,"
said Steve Artim, CEO of WirelessWERX,
in a press release. "SiteWERX will give residents the
additional peace of mind of knowing that when they
need emergency assistance, help can get to them as
quickly as possible."
Sherleen Mahoney is a Web managing editor at 1105 Media.