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Faster 911 Response Time Thanks to Location Services

ESO Staff

From online maps to finding restaurants near you, most people utilize the location features of their smart phones on a regular basis. This same technology, however, will soon be used to help save lives by providing first responders more detailed information on emergency calls. 

While smart phones can transmit incredibly detailed information, including their location, many 911 infrastructures were built on outdated landline technologies and systems. Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to integrate newer technologies by bringing together carriers with call centers, requiring carriers to be able to locate callers to within 50 meters, at least 80 percent of the time, by the year 2021. 

Technology leader Apple recently released a statement outlining its plan to partner with emergency technology company RapidSOS to make iPhone users’ locations more available to 911 call centers as a part of its HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) program launched in 2015. According to the statement, Apple’s location technology already exceeds the FCC requirements and – by leveraging RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline – location information can be more easily accessed by 911 call centers, helping to greatly improve response times for first responders. 

Apple was quick to point out that in keeping with its privacy standards, user data cannot be used for any non-emergency purpose, and only the responding 911 center will have access to the user’s location during an emergency call. Many feel Apple’s engagement will help drive forward the Next Generation 911 (NG911) movement, an initiative created by the U.S. government to help upgrade first response systems.  

Plans for NG911 include enhancing emergency number services to create a faster, more resilient system that allows voice, photos, videos and text messages to flow seamlessly from the public to the 911 network. Additionally, NG911 will also improve public safety answering points (PSAP) ability to help manage call overload and natural disasters by making it easier to transfer 911 calls and direct to the proper jurisdictional responses based on location tracking.

Companies like RapidSOS are envisioning a future that integrates data from the Internet of Things (IoT) with emergency response providers, including the transmission of critical data over IP, including medical profiles, emergency contacts, sensor information from connected devices, and rich multimedia content. As technology and large amount of data continues to play an important and prevalent role in everyday life, the IoT and its related data promises to make helpful improvements in health care and patient experience 

By making the most of available data – while still protecting individual privacy – the future of emergency response industry promises to be more efficient and quicker, helping save lives and property in the most dangerous situations. 

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