But did you know that there is one thing your cell phone may not be able to do for you? When you call 9-1-1 with an emergency, it may not be able to pinpoint your exact location. Sure, it can hone in on an approximate location using a triangulation method but when seconds count, an approximate location may not be good enough. When you call 9-1-1 from your landline telephone, your exact address shows up on the 9-1-1 dispatcher’s computer screen. So even if you can’t speak, they can find you. That and the fact that you still have telephone service when the power goes out are two great arguments for holding on to that landline telephone.
Of course, not all emergencies happen at home which got me thinking about what to do if you do have to call 9-1-1 from your cell phone. According to the Federal Communications Commission 30% of all 9-1-1 calls come from cell phones. The FCC has required that all wireless carriers be able to pinpoint your location for the 9-1-1 dispatchers, but the rule is coming in phases and, like most things, there are exceptions to the rule. So, what can you do to make sure you are found in an emergency? I stumbled across an interesting article on this subject called “Before You Call 911 on a Cell Phone” by Rod Brouhard, EMT. He offers these great tips:
- Tell the call-taker which city you're calling from.
- Tell the call-taker what type of emergency you have.
Different emergency services use different dispatch centers. With the right information, the call-taker will transfer you to the right center.
Wireless carriers are required to complete 9-1-1 calls, even when the phone is not activated. Any phone that turns on and can receive a signal is capable of making a 9-1-1 call.
The problem is: if the phone you're using isn't activated, there isn't a phone number assigned to it. That means if you're disconnected from the dispatch center, you must call 9-1-1 back. They will not have a way to call you.
Professional call-takers are trained to get information from you. They're staring at a computer screen that has all the relevant questions. Listen carefully, and answer as concisely as possible.
Remember, responders can only respond if they know where they're going. Make sure you get the location as detailed as possible.
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Call me old-fashioned, but I still have my trusty landline and probably will for as long as it works!!
Laura French, Executive Director and history geek