It is a nightmare scenario for first-responders and emergency dispatch personnel: A caller phones, but is using a wireless phone, so his or her location cannot be pinpointed. The caller is distracted or in distress; they either don’t know where they are, exactly, or they cannot describe it. It may even be the case that the call ends abruptly before they can describe their location. In all those scenarios, it is that much harder to get them the help they need when they need it, before time runs out.

As fewer and fewer people have landline phones, the development of the modern wireless phone and smartphone becomes that much more critical to 911 dispatch. Fortunately, improvements in GPS tracking and, more specifically, features designed to transmit GPS information in an emergency, are becoming the standard for these devices.

According to inTime, there has been growing concern since 2015 that an increasingly small number of 911 calls are actually able to pinpoint the location data for the call. “The data ranged from one-third to two-thirds of all calls not successfully transmitting a correct (or any) location to the dispatcher,” they report. “When it comes to short calls, or calls that end abruptly, about a life-threatening situation, the exact location can mean the difference between life and death.”

The piece goes on to explain that in 2018, major smartphone providers (specifically, Android and Apple, the two most popular brands) announced that phones would automatically share location data when dialing 911. Every phone has the ability to locate itself using GPS; users are often urged to turn GPS tracking off as a security measure. If the phone automatically shares its GPS data during a 911 call, this tells emergency response personnel precisely where they must go.

This is one of the reasons Caliber Public Safety includes advanced mapping technology in our public safety software. Both our Records Management System software and our Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) software includes advanced means for including map and location data, when available, to provide important contextual information and alerts to responding personnel (and/or record necessary data to be logged and managed subsequently).

The advantages of improvements in GPS tracking for wireless phones should be obvious: While location data is not shared during “regular” calls, in an emergency the phone lets dispatch know (by transmitting information that is then integrated into Computer-Aided Dispatch software) precisely where responding personnel must go. This is true regardless of the situation faced by the caller. As long as they have dialed 911, the GPS data does the rest. This is a welcome improvement, and yet another sign that public safety software development and technological advancement as a whole are working together to make everyone safer.