Where are you?

In August 2013, six months before the Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to improve locating 911 callers over cellphones, the California chapter of an association representing 911 call takers filed a study with the FCC that included this graph. The majority of 911 calls from the largest wireless carriers in five municipal areas, with the exception of Verizon Communications Inc., didn’t provide a specific location of the caller, the data showed. Calls on AT&T Inc.’s and T-Mobile US Inc.’s networks dropped sharply in February 2011 and continued to decline. In an accompanying letter, the chapter suggested that a “significant factor” was because the two companies shifted from using a triangulation location technology to GPS, which doesn’t work as well in urban areas where tall buildings block satellite signals.

“Our first responders are losing precious time trying to find victims when that information should be delivered to them within seconds using available technologies,” wrote Danita Crombach, president of the California Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association. Wireless carriers argued the drop was due to 911 dispatchers not properly querying a computer database where carriers sent the calls’ location data, an explanation that drew the ire of call center managers.

Note: Metro PCS merged with T-Mobile in October 2012.

Source: California Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association