South Sound 911 using RapidSOS for better 911 call location accuracy

In an emergency, seconds count. It’s important to know where you are so 911 can direct responders to your exact location to deliver life-saving aid. Now, South Sound 911 can receive more accurate cellular location data for 911 calls the agency receives, using RapidSOS.

In Pierce County, where more than 81 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones, the “know your location” message has become increasingly important over the years. The existing 911 system was designed for landlines associated to a fixed location, so obtaining accurate location information from mobile callers needing emergency aid has been challenging for 911 call takers and dispatchers nationwide.

While RapidSOS does not eliminate the need for callers to know their location, it will help responders get better location information.

“When someone is in distress, sometimes the simplest information – like knowing where you are – can be difficult to remember or relay,” South Sound 911 Executive Director Andrew Neiditz said. “If there’s a tool we can use to get that vital information in order to do the work better, to help first responders, and to dispatch the proper response, we want to use it.”

South Sound 911’s use of RapidSOS means the technology is available for calls placed within the jurisdictions of all 38 local police and fire agencies in the county.

In order for South Sound 911 to use the service for a 911 call, members of the public should ensure their cellular phone operating systems are up-to-date and the device must be able to send data. Only 911 centers with access to the RapidSOS Clearinghouse will receive device location information during a 911 call for calls made from iPhones (iOs 12+) and Android (version 4.0+) devices.

The data provided by RapidSOS comes from “connected device companies” which provide mobile applications and “smart” technologies, and location data from Google and Apple. Other data may also be available from sources such as MedicAlert and the American Heart Association; however, data from Uber’s “Call 911” Live-Location Availability is not yet available in Pierce County.

RapidSOS location data supplements, but does not replace, existing 911 and carrier-provided location information and may not be available for every call. A variety of technical factors may impact the availability and accuracy of device-based location, such as the need to allow simultaneous voice and data delivery.

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