Why Can Apps Locate People Better Than Emergency Responders?

In the age of digitalization, there have been many questions surrounding the efficiency of emergency responders when it comes to location. Apps such as Facebook, Uber, and even Instagram can pinpoint someone’s exact location. However, when someone is in need of help, emergency responders don’t have the same capabilities to find the location immediately. In this article, we’re going to explore the reason for this issue and how firefighters and emergency responders can overcome this challenge. Before sharing this information with your clients, review their Firefighter Liability Insurance policies to ensure their limits and program is adequate for 2018.

According to KUTV Salt Lake City, apps like Pokemon-Go and Uber can track your every move, because you have accepted the terms and conditions of their operating system. Your acceptance gives your permission to be tracked to your exact GPS location. Emergency dispatchers don’t have that luxury, and instead rely on cell towers from the major carriers and what is called triangulation. If the triangulation system works, the longer you are on the phone, the closer and closer the cell towers can pinpoint your location as they relay information between towers nearest to where your call was made.

Approximately 70% of 911 calls are made on cell phones, which poses a huge concern for emergency responders. Because of these challenges, major cell phone carriers, such as Verizon, Sprint, T Mobile and AT&T were put to the test to determine the accuracy of their location pinpoints. Most carriers got the location correct within 22-32 meters away.

The biggest concern for this industry is taking too long to respond to emergencies. Naturally, if the caller is distressed or confused after an accident, it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate read on their exact location. While dispatchers work to get cell carrier information and approval on location, the caller could be in severe danger.

Even worse, if the caller is not found on data records, this means the dispatchers will have their hands tied should the call be dropped.

If the dispatch station doesn’t have the means and IT resources to find the record, it could take too long to sort through and find them the old-fashioned way.

To mitigate this, firefighters and dispatchers need to work side by side with cell phone carriers to establish location services ahead of time. In turn, any issues or bugs with the service can be worked out before a call is made and they are unable to locate the person in distress.


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At Provident Fire Plus, we offer custom tailored packages to best protect firefighters and volunteer firefighters. We understand the risks that emergency response teams are subjected to on a daily basis, and have worked to serve these dedicated professionals for over 87 years. For more information about our products and policies, we invite you to contact our experts today at (855) 201-8880.