National investigation of 911 call centers confirms worst fears; they may not find you!

Calling 911 from a cell phone can be dangerous to your health.

USA Today published a major investigation into “911’s deadly flaw: lack of location data” yesterday.

The article probed the moving story of Shanell Anderson, who called 911 from her SUV while it was sinking in a lake.  Since the call was routed to a neighboring Georgia county, the dispatcher could not find Anderson on her map, despite Anderson giving an exact location with cross street and ZIP code.

It took 20 minutes for rescuers to reach Anderson, who died a week and a half later.  You can hear her chilling 911 recording:

Just about every smart phone has GPS, but the 911 system was designed decades ago, when those technologies simply didn’t exist.  That doesn’t help Jacquene Curlee, Shanell Anderson’s mother.

“Why is it more important for a 99-cent app or Facebook to know where we are than the 911 operator who answers the call?” Curlee asked. “When you have GPS, when you have apps that have locator services, you’re telling me 911 doesn’t have the capability to locate someone?”

If you have to call 911, be sure to tell the dispatcher what city or county you’re in, and make sure they route you to the correct dispatch center.  It might take a few seconds to get you to the right operator, but those seconds are worth it if the dispatcher who answered can’t find you on their map.

Better yet, if you are threatened, defend yourself.  It only takes a second or two to draw a pistol, and even experienced police officers will tell you that they can’t respond quickly enough to protect you every time. If you’re calling from a cell phone, they have to find you first, and that is far from a sure bet.

The story has struck a nerve: Local news stations all over the nation have picked it up, exploding on Twitter with the hashtag #can911findme.


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Steve Berman


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