According to the FCC, the huge popularity and convenience of cell phones means that approximately "70 percent of 911 calls are placed from wireless phones". The convenience of having a cell phone on you at all times wherever you are is an important factor in owning one and helps justify the expense. However, that same mobility also creates a problem:
Since wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address. While the location of the cell site closest to the 911 caller may provide a general indication of the caller's location, that information is not usually specific enough for rescue personnel to deliver assistance to the caller quickly. - FCC
The FCC has three basic rules that apply to "all wireless licensees, broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS) licensees and certain Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) licensees."
- The FCC's basic 911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP, regardless of whether the caller subscribes to the provider's service or not.
- Phase I Enhanced 911 (E911) rules require wireless service providers to provide the PSAP with the telephone number of the originator of a wireless 911 call and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call.
- Phase II E911 rules require wireless service providers to provide more precise location information to PSAPs; specifically, the latitude and longitude of the caller. This information must be accurate to within 50 to 300 meters depending upon the type of location technology used.
- Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
- Provide the emergency operator with your wireless phone number, so if the call gets disconnected, the emergency operator can call you back.
- PSAPs currently lack the technical capability to receive texts, photos and videos.
- If your wireless phone is not "initialized" (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
- To help public safety personnel allocate emergency resources, learn and use the designated number in your state for highway accidents or other non life-threatening incidents. States often reserve specific numbers for these types of incidents. For example, "#77" is the number used for highway accidents in Virginia.
- Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 911 when one button, such as the "9" key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers.
- If your wireless phone came pre-programmed with the auto-dial 911 feature already turned on, turn this feature off. Consult your user manual for instructions.
- Lock your keypad when you're not using your wireless phone. This action prevents accidental calls to 911.
- Consider creating a contact in your wireless phone's memory with the name "ICE" (in Case of Emergency), which lists the phone numbers of people you want to have notified in an emergency.
•FCC: Wireless 911 Services
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