Although nearly half of all 911 calls are placed from a cell phone, most emergency call centers in Utah lack the ability to get a fix on the location of callers in distress, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Utah is one of four states in the nation that has yet to provide more than 40 percent of its population with enhanced 911 mobile service, says the federal Government Accountability Office. The report placed Utah as the state furthest behind in county-by-county implementation of the first phase of the technology – allowing dispatchers to know the location of the nearest cell tower to the caller.
The technology gap was highlighted in 2004 when a 30-year-old man died in a botched 911 response. Paramedics were sent to a wrong address and emergency officials had no way to pinpoint the accurate location of the call. An official attributed Utah’s problems to the state’s urban-rural divide, noting that more rural counties don’t have the tax base to sustain their 911 services. Three states told GAO that it may take five years or longer to finish the transition. Officials from five states – Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, and Wisconsin -said they may never complete their systems.