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Cell Phones and the 9-1-1 System

Cell phone calls to 9-1-1 have come a long way since the days when we had no information about you or your actual location. Cellular phones have made it very easy for citizens to report traffic accidents and other emergencies that are not near traditional telephones.

As of October 2005 we have Phase II 9-1-1 service with all cell phone companies with service in our county (AT&T , US Cellular, Sprint). 

This gets emergency assistance to victims faster, and has saved lives. There are however, several major problems with cell phones and their impact on 9-1-1 . 

How do I dial 9-1-1 from my cell phone? 

Simply dial 9-1-1, then push the send button. If you do not have a good signal, the call may not go through. When you dial 9-1-1 from a cellular phone, you will be connected to a 9-1-1 center, but it may be an adjoining county, especially if you are near the county border. If this should happen, you will get transferred to the appropriate 9-1-1 center. 

Be prepared to give your location including the city or county if needed. If an address is unknown, you may be asked to look around for landmarks, street signs, addresses on mailboxes, store names, or anything else that will help us locate the emergency. 

Is my location known when I call 9-1-1? 

SOMETIMES! That is the big problem with cellular phones, the 9-1-1 dispatcher may not know where you are depending on your phone. 

With Phase II, we get the latitude - longitude of the caller within the requirements of the FCC rules. Phase II service allows the 9-1-1 center to see the cell phone number, which cell tower your call is using, and which cell phone company you are using. 

Do I Pay for a Call to 9-1-1? 

At this time, the State of Missouri is the only state that doesn't have a state sales tax for wireless phone users to help cover the expenses of handling their calls. 9-1-1 is a free call to cellular customers, you are not billed for the minutes used.

Accuracy Standards: 

The FCC adopted the following revised standards for Phase II location accuracy and reliability: For handset-based solutions: 50 meters for 67 percent of calls, 150 meters for 95 percent of calls; For network-based solutions: 100 meters for 67 percent of calls, 300 meters for 95 percent of calls. 9-1-1 centers will have computerized maps to display the location of a wireless caller. Your latitude and longitude will be your "virtual address" when dialing 9-1-1 from a wireless phone.

Want to learn more?: 

Federal Communications Commission - Many good links and resources
General Overview of 9-1-1 - at FCC site
National NENA



Osage County MO

Emergency Management Agency

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