Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some 911 centers can’t keep tabs on cell phones

msnbc.com: "Donnie and Sharon Leutjen and their 15-year-old granddaughter, Taron Leutjen, were found June 9. They had been shot to death, and their bodies had lain in their home in Cole Camp, Mo., for about two days.
Authorities know approximately when the Leutjens were shot because they got a 911 call on the night of June 7.
On the tape of the call — which investigators examined after the worried inquiries of someone who knew the family led to the bodies' discovery — “one of the male voices was directing Sharon Leutjen to sit down (and) put her arms behind her,” the sheriff’s office in Benton County, in central Missouri, said in court documents.
“At least two threats to shoot her and the other two victims” could be heard, the sheriff’s office said.
So why didn’t deputies rush to the scene as soon as they got the call?
They couldn’t. They didn’t know where it came from. Whoever made the call used a cell phone, and Benton County’s technology isn’t advanced enough to take advantage of location services that are standard features of nearly all cell phones sold today.
Benton County isn’t an isolated example. Cell phones may lure us with the promise of immediate help in an emergency, but depending on where you live, that promise can go unkept because of inadequate technology at one or both ends of a 911 call.
“Access to 911 from cell phones is very different from wired phones and also varies greatly around the country,” said the National Emergency Number Association, or NENA, the nonprofit industry group that works with governments to promote and institute 911 programs across North America.
In places that haven’t upgraded their 911 centers to the latest technology, “this presents life-threatening problems due to lost response time” if callers are unable to speak or don’t know where they are, the organization said.
That’s why emergency officials and wireless industry leaders say every household should have a centrally located, easily accessible land line for emergency calls. But increasingly, Americans are dropping their land lines and going wireless-only."

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