imagesLake Havasu City, AZ – According to a national statistics report, more than 41 percent of American homes are now wireless only.  The number of homes switching to wireless only is rising at least 5% per year.  Before ditching a landline phone for a wireless one, it is important that consumers understand that doing so may have unforeseen consequences.  “When someone calls 911 from a landline phone, the emergency operator is able to trace the call to pinpoint the exact location of the emergency.  This isn’t true for cell phones,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.  “With more and more Americans turning to cell phones, it is important that something is done to improve our emergency response system and enforce location requirements when it comes to 911 calls from mobile devices,” Johnson continued.

More than 70% of all emergency calls are made from a mobile phone, but unlike landlines they do not alert dispatchers to the callers’ location.  According to the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, less than 50% of all cell phone emergency calls are able to be traced.  “If the signal is weak the dispatcher only receives the location of the mobile phone tower and that can be miles away from the actual phone,” Johnson stated.  “While the FCC did propose new guidelines this year for cellphone companies and suppliers to update location based services when it comes to 911 calling, the requirements fall short of what needs to be done now,” Johnson continued.

The new FCC regulations will require phone providers to provide location data on 40% of calls and increases to 70% in five years.   By six years they will need to be able to tell dispatchers coordinates within 50 meters of the call in 80% of cases.  Another FCC rule that is currently in the works also aims to help mobile users and the 911 issue.  FCC’s proposed text-to-911 rule is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device.  The FCC’s timeline for a national rollout is unknown, but cell phone carriers such as AT&T and Sprint must support text-to-911 by June of 2015.  “While these new rules and regulations are much needed in today’s almost all mobile world, the time frame for implementation is taking far too long.  A lot can change with mobile technology in six years putting our emergency communications even further behind when it comes to innovation,” Johnson explained.

An independent government authority was created by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act in 2012 to look into ways of building a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications.  Known as FirstNet, their main goal is to create a separate network for responders to communicate on, regardless of how clogged the commercial networks may be.  “This is another real issue when it comes to mobile devices and emergency responders,” Johnson stated.  During a Seahawks game last year at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle Washington, attendees were asked to limit their social media use in case of an emergency so that cell phone towers were not clogged up.  “Right now our emergency responders are dependent upon the same cell phone networks as the rest of America.  During large events, these networks often get clogged down which could lead to a potential disaster should an emergency arise,” Johnson explained.Congress authorized $7 billion in funding for the construction of the FirstNet network. To create a nationwide network, all 56 U.S. states and territories must have a radio access network that is connected to the FirstNet core network. To contain costs, FirstNet is tasked with leveraging existing telecommunications infrastructure and assets. This includes exploring public/private partnerships.  Arizona signed onto the FirstNet’s RFP planning in 2013.  Governor Jan Brewer appointed Arizona Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to work with Arizona’s FirstNet Team to meet with stakeholders and public safety agencies to help FirstNet design their request for proposal.For more information on AzFirstNet please visit: https://azfirstnet.az.gov/

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