Page 42 - FCW, November/December 2020
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Public Sector Innovations
Transforming 911 for Safer Communities
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
Most Americans keep their mobile phones constantly within reach. So in an emergency, those devices are increasingly used to dial 911. But when people use a mobile device instead of a landline to call emergency services, dispatchers can track a caller only to the nearest cell phone tower, and precious time can be lost when trying to send help to those who don’t know their location.
“The public had this perception that we would know where they were with the level of accuracy of an Uber driver or the pizza guy, and that just wasn’t the case,”
said Budge Currier, manager of the 911 Emergency Communications Branch in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
California receives 81 percent of its 27 million emergency calls from cell phones, and first responders asked Currier’s office for a better system. In response, Cal OES partnered
with RapidDeploy to implement a cloud-powered, web- based mapping tool that harnesses data from Apple and Google to track a person’s location more precisely.
“The accuracy is down to about 10 to 17 meters in radius,” Currier said. “We’re literally down to the house and the room in the house you are in.”
The tool also provides real-time location updates if
the caller is on the move — which is helpful in cases of abduction or road rage, Currier said — and two-way texting so dispatchers can send questions to callers if they hang
up unexpectedly. That feature has been crucial for victims
of domestic abuse this year, many of whom have been quarantined with their abusers because of the pandemic and may not want to risk being heard talking to a dispatcher. The two-way text function can translate 60 languages in real time.
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