9­-1­-1 Wireless Issues

Across the nation the use of wireless phones is steadily increasing. So too is the impact of wireless calls on our 9-1-1 system. One of the biggest challenges we face is developing a method of establishing a caller's location.

While landline phones deliver a specific address and phone number to the 9-1-1 call-­taker, a wireless phone is not "hard-wired" to a certain location. Since the caller can be using the phone practically anywhere, there's no particular address associated with the phone to send to 9-1-1.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has attempted to resolve the location issue by requiring wireless companies to send the street address of the cell tower that transmits the call to the 9-1-1 Center, along with the call­back number of the wireless phone. This will allow the 9-1-1 call-­taker to know the general area where the person is calling from, and to call back should they be disconnected. However, this will not work with un­initialized phones. In the very near future, the latitude/longitude of the caller will be displayed at the 9-1-1 Center to assist emergency personnel in finding the caller.