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Residents contacting 911 advised to make calls outside

October 28, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - When making a 911 call from your cell phone, get outside if possible.

That was the advice of Columbiana County 911 Director Bob Emmons during this week's meeting after he updated committee members about the wireless 911 service that was implemented earlier this year.

Emmons said the vast majority of all 911 calls made by cell phone are being routed to the proper dispatching center in the county and therefore need no rerouting by dispatchers. He estimated dispatchers are able to find the exact location of 80 percent to 90 percent of those calls.

Emmons said those cell phone 911 calls are likely being made from inside buildings or cars, which interferes with the system's ability to pinpoint the caller's location. He suggested stepping outside or next to a door or window.

"See as much sky as possible," Emmons said.

As an example of the system's success to date, he noted searchers were able to locate a horseback rider who became lost after dark at Beaver Creek State Park by her cell phone.

Deb Fickes is a dispatcher for the East Liverpool Police Department, which serves as one of the five 911 dispatching centers in the county. She attended the meeting and told Emmons they were having difficulty pinpointing 911 cell phone calls that last less than 30 seconds.

"When people are frantic and screaming you have a hard time keeping them on the line that long," Fickes said.

Emmons said there are some tweaks they would make to the system to reduce the amount of time needed for the system to pinpoint the call location and he would see that this was done. He said moving around while in the midst of a 911 cell call also reduces the chances of pinpointing the caller's location.

Emmons also addressed the issue of inadvertent 911 cell phone calls made by people with older model AT&T cell phones. He said they are receiving a significant number of these 911 calls by "butt dial" or other means because the older model AT&T cell phones allow for 911 to be called automatically by hitting the number 9, but today's phone lack the feature.

"We are suggesting people (with these phones) disable the speed dial," Emmons said. "If anyone cannot remember the number for 911, that's pretty sad."

Emmons said they are also asking oil and gas drilling companies to provide them with the location of drill sites and access roads so the information can be incorporated to the 911 system.



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