More than half of the 911 centers in Maryland are able to glean some information from a cell phone call, such as the phone’s owner and number, the closest cellular tower and often a broad area in which the call originated.
But unlike calls made from land lines, nearly every 911 center in the state lacks the ability to pinpoint the origin of wireless calls.
That capability is on the horizon, reports the Baltimore Sun. For several years, U.S. communities have been slowly upgrading to “enhanced 911,” or E911, for cellular calls as a byproduct of a federal requirement that wireless carriers improve 911 service for their subscribers by the end of 2005.
But the nationwide effort has taken longer than expected, as government regulators and wireless companies have struggled to craft standards and develop new technology. A recent report from the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that many states are still years from upgrading their 911 centers with the new technology.
Public safety experts say the technology is critical for police and fire departments, which can use it to respond to medical and traffic emergencies in cases where victims can’t speak or don’t know where they are. It’s also useful to tackle crimes, such as abductions, where a victim may dial 911 but not be able to reveal a location, the Sun reports.