911 dispatchers are facing challenges handling an increasing number of calls from cellphones, says the seattle times. Of the nearly 2.2 million calls received by King County 911 dispatchers in Seattle last year, about 1.3 million were from wireless callers. When a 911 dispatcher receives an emergency call from a regular telephone “land line,” the caller’s phone number and address are automatically displayed on the operator’s computer screen.
When the caller uses a cellphone, emergency dispatchers have only an approximate location of the source of the call. As a result, police, medics and firefighters might not be dispatched as quickly to life-threatening emergencies as they would be for calls made on a land line. Once technological upgrades are completed by 2009, King County’s 911 centers will be able to use location software to accurately pinpoint cellphone callers. The goal is to come within 9 meters of the source of a call. Dispatchers have struggled to reach cellphone callers in high-rise buildings because the dispatchers can’t pinpoint where in the building the callers are. The National Emergency Number Association says that nearly 50 percent of all 911 calls made in the U.S. last year were from cellphones.