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New technology can tell 911 dispatchers your location with iPhone and Android

Posted: 6:52 PM, Sep 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-19 18:52:20-04

If you ever have to call 911 from an iPhone or Android, dispatchers in participating 911 call centers are now much better able to pinpoint where you are - and send help faster. The cell phone device and service providers have improved location-finding abilities if you're calling 911 in an emergency.

"When you call 911, your phone knows you're calling 911, your phone knows the location, and it can then send that to our 911 call-taker," said Bob Finney, director of communications for the Collier County Sheriff's Office.

iPhone users will first have to install the latest iOS update, which iOS 12.

Wednesday, Google announced that it is also using a device-based location service, which is already enabled on Android phones.

Finney said that the ability to find people who need help by pinpointing their smart phones is an exciting advancement for first responders.

"People misstate their location, or they don't know where they are," Finney said. "In Southwest Florida, we have a lot of visitors to the area. The most important thing in calling 911 is knowing where the emergency is, because then we can get help started, regardless of anything else."

He said that at least one recent call has already proven the technology's value, when a woman called 911 for shortness of breath and told the dispatcher that she was at a Fresh Market store.

"That's what we heard, Fresh Market," Finney said. "She was actually at Whole Foods."

"Hopefully they keep up with the changes and keep moving forward with technology," said Charles Minard. His son Chas died from a heart attack in 2012, after there was a delay because Collier County EMS didn't hear the call from dispatch immediately.

Minard said that while the breakdown was due to human error, he glad to see 911 technology improving.

"Parents shouldn't have to go through losing their children just because somebody didn't hear a radio or phone call," Minard said. "It is nice to know that they're striving for change. Every little thing helps save a life."

Finney said that dispatchers will still ask callers for their exact location as an added measure.