New system can pinpoint location of 911 callers

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A new system implemented by Clovis 911 dispatch will allow emergency responders to pinpoint the location of cell-phone callers.

Using global positioning satellite technology, emergency officials will be able to narrow the callers’ location to within 7 to 80 feet.

The previous system enabled dispatchers to zero in on only the closest cell tower, placing callers in a radius of up to 10 miles, making it nearly impossible to locate them, according to Carolyn Aragon, Clovis Police Department dispatch supervisor.

Now, when 911 is called, federal regulations require cell-phone service companies to provide emergency responders with detailed information such as the telephone number and location of the user.

With the increase of cell-phone use, a majority of 911 calls are made from mobile phones. Sometimes callers cannot communicate their location because they are in distress or they may not be able to complete their call, according to Aragon.

Although some wireless carriers are still working to implement the new system, Aragon said her department is already noticing the new technology being phased in.

Clovis 911 dispatch has four telephone lines dedicated to calls originating from cell phones and six for calls from land lines. Of the 10,202 calls received this year by 911, as of Wednesday, 52 percent originated from cell phones, according to a report provided by the Clovis Police Department.

Even cell phones without service subscriptions are capable of dialing 911, Aragon said, explaining systems need to be prepared to address the increasing frequency of cell-phone use.