In our increasingly wireless society, more and more of the mobile public is dialing 911 every day—about 86 million people were subscribers of wireless telephone service in 1999, and it’s estimated that nearly 46,000 more Americans become wireless subscribers every day.
It is estimated that of the 150 million calls that were made to 9-1-1 in 2000, 45 million of them were made by wireless telephone users—that’s 30 percent. This is a ten-fold increase from nearly 4.3 million wireless 9-1-1 calls just 10 years ago, and the number will more than double to 100 million calls in the next five years. It is anticipated that by 2005, the majority of 911 calls will be from wireless callers.
What is Wireless 911?
In most areas of North America, most citizens have basic or enhanced 911 service from their landline, or wireline, phones in their homes or workplaces. Basic 911 means that when the three-digit number is dialed, a call taker/dispatcher in the local public safety answering point (PSAP), or 911 center, answers the call. The emergency and its location are communicated by voice between the caller and the call taker. In areas serviced by Enhanced 911 (E911), the local 911 center has equipment and database information that allow the call taker to see the caller’s phone number and address on a display. This lets them quickly dispatch emergency help, even if the caller is unable to communicate where they are or what the emergency is. Arlington 911 has Enhanced 911 service.
However, when 911 calls are made from wireless phones, the call may not be routed to the closest 911 center, and the call taker doesn’t receive the callback phone number or the location of the caller. This presents life threatening problems due to lost response time, if callers are unable to speak or don’t know where they are, or if they don’t know their wireless phone callback number and the call is dropped.
Here are some helpful hints when dialing 911 from a wireless phone:
- Providing an accurate address is critically important.
- Give an exact street number and street name if possible or closest intersection.
- Provide a business name or landmark if address is unknown.
- Do not hang-up until your call is answered!
- Know your cellphone number!
Enhanced Wireless 911
The wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) rules, established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), seek to improve the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911 service by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls.
The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts – Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call. Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 100 meters in most cases.
The deployment of E911 requires the development of new technologies and upgrades to local 911 PSAPs, as well as coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and local wireline carriers. The FCC established a four-year rollout schedule for Phase II, beginning October 1, 2001 and to be completed by December 31, 2005. Below is a table showing the timeline established by the FCC for phase II compliance.