Feature Article

August 27, 2014

New Survey Illuminates Gap Between Perceived Effectiveness of 9-1-1 Location Services

Are the location services on your cell phone powerful enough to pinpoint your location in an emergency when you call from your own home? Chances are very slim that this is the case, as current FCC regulations do not require cell phone carriers to provide an accurate location for callers inside buildings. At best, you can expect emergency services to be able to narrow your location down to the neighborhood level.

However, a recent survey found that the public is largely unaware of this fact. About two in every three cell phone owners who responded to the survey were under the assumption that wireless companies could track an indoor 9-1-1 call at least to the correct block. Only 6 percent of responders gave the correct answer.

After this portion of the survey, cell phone owners were told about the current FCC regulations that don't require cell phone carriers to provide accurate indoor locations. 83 percent of the responders said that it was very or critically important to public safety for the FCC to change policy to require accurate indoor location services, and 79 percent thought that the FCC should begin enforcing that rule within two years. 46 percent said they should start immediately.

There are countless emergency situations where a caller would not be able to speak to a 9-1-1 operator during an emergency phone call, yet phone carriers have decided to settle with the cheaper option. The FCC predicts that nearly 10,000 lives could be saved every single year with improved location services, and a recent independent study confirmed that the technology does indeed exist. Until mobile carriers are willing to fork over the extra cash however, location-based services will be almost useless if the call is made from indoors.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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