Wireless 911 has loose ends

Erie County dispatchers can't pinpoint location of about one in five people who use cell phone to call 911
Andy Ouriel
Apr 2, 2013


In 2011, after years of delays and glitches, Erie County officials finally pushed the "ON" button to fire up their wireless 911 system.

The program is now running at about 80 percent, in that dispatchers can track the location of about four of every five people who use a cell phone to call 911. For about 20 percent of cell phone calls, however, 911 dispatchers cannot trace the location.

Data from the Erie County Sheriff's Office also shows an increasing number of people are using cell phones to call 911, as opposed to landlines. In 2005, 911 dispatchers fielded about 20,700 calls placed from landlines; last year, only about 10,800 people called in from landlines.

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Some turn off or do not turn on the auto feature that pinpoints (GPS) 911 calls. Even old phones have that option.

BW1's picture

There is no option to withhold GPS data when calling 911 - the option is only to withhold it from other connections.


One of the many amusing things about opinions is that they don't require facts.


Hold on.....I'll try it.


Ummm yeah...I would not recommend making frivolous calls to 911.


my phone's settings states, "E911 location cannot be turned off on any mobile cellular phone".


Different phones, bob. I can shut mine off and it's less than a year old.

2cents's picture

It is progress in a good direction, best of luck to those working on the bugs and congrats for flipping the switch, god only knows that 80% is better than 0% if you fell of the road on a dark snowy night and were pinned in your vehicle all alone!

your babies Daddy's picture
your babies Daddy

this is a step in the right direction soon having a landline is going to be the same as having a VCR.


Mobile carriers must comply with FCC regulations that require a certain percent of phones have a location fix available. There may be some old phones in use that never had a GPS chip, or that permitted it to be turned off, but that would not explain the 20%. Low-cost GPS devices are less precise and are more inhibited when used inside buildings, and surely many call are made from inside buildings.

2cents's picture

Possibly the NAVTEQ mapping, I have to tell people to use another city to get to my place. It took 3 years to get it changed then the GPS people need to update their systems, and then the end users need to have updates as well.


Interesting. Do the dispachers rely upon Navteq data? Hope the SR print story explains the cause of the problem.