Pryor Pushing FCC On Rural 911

by J.R. Davis ([email protected]) 151 views 

9-1-1.

It’s one of the first numbers we’re taught to remember as kids.

Just pick up the phone, dial those three simple digits, and emergency crews are on the way. No address needed…until now.

Arkansans, as well as the rest of the country, depend on the quick action that 911 operating services provide each and every day, but that rapid response time is in jeopardy as more and more residents trade in their landlines for wireless phones.

Under the current 911 system and Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) requirement, landlines are tied directly to a physical address, which makes this method incredibly effective for EMS and law enforcement according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wireless phones are not, making them less reliable and prompting messages like the following:

“When dialing 911, providing first responders with accurate location information is essential,” reads the first sentence on Find Me 911’s website, which goes on to state, “It could mean the difference between life and death.”

According to the FCC, of the estimated 240 million 911 calls made each year, 70 percent were made with a wireless phone. It seems to be even higher in the Natural State. While there haven’t been any Arkansas specific studies, a recent Fox 16 report cited roughly 85 percent of 911 calls in the state were made from wireless phones. Of those, well over half were made indoors, and that’s the problem. While there’s a location requirement in place for outdoor wireless calls, according to Find Me 911’s website, there is no FCC location requirement for mobile phone calls placed indoors.

“If a call is placed indoors from a wireless phone or where GPS signals are compromised, the location information may be unreliable or inaccurate,” stated the website. “People living or working in multi-story, densely-populated urban areas are the ones most adversely impacted by the limitation of existing E-911 location accuracy requirements.”

The technology to fix this problem exists, however, it is not mandatory and most carriers have yet to deploy it, which has sparked frustration among groups such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National EMS Leadership Conference.

A recent letter to the FCC, spearheaded by Senator Mark Pryor (D) and signed by the aforementioned groups, is pushing the commission to act as soon as possible.

“With more Americans relying on wireless phone service today, it’s essential that we have the tools in place so our first responders can access reliable location data from wireless 9-1-1 calls,” said Pryor, who serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that wireless calls from Americans in rural and remote areas are much more difficult to locate in times of emergency.”