An ad promoting a “911 Emergency Cell Phone” for $59.95 caught an elderly Seattle woman’s eye after she had paid $40 for a wireless phone in case of emergencies and a $25 monthly fee, even though she never uses it.
The Seattle Times says that several 911 experts, as well as officials for a number of wireless carriers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), agree that the woman should not switch to the 911 emergency phone.
The reason is that emergency operators cannot call back on the 911-only phones. “Callback is so critical,” said Marlys Davis, E-911 program manager for King County, Wash., “especially if it’s elderly people, if they’re traveling around and don’t know where they are. … That’s a problem if we need more information (and) the call is disconnected.”
A project of the National Sheriffs Association that helps seniors fight crime backed off from any commitment to provide old cellphones to seniors. An official said he is “not a big fan” of their use to dial 911 because of their inability to receive calls. Chris Doherty, a spokesman for Nextel, warned that discarded cellphones sometimes lack rechargers and may have damaged antennas or are on their last legs.