ALLEN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Take a drive, or go for a run. Your cell phone can show you exactly where you are. Call 911, though, and the picture has always been less clear.
“Sometimes it can be very accurate, other times not so much,” said Shellie Taylor, communications manager for the city of Allen.
Dispatchers have relied on technology that uses the nearest cell phone towers to calculate a caller’s likely location.
“You could be looking at about 1,500 meters accuracy,” said Rodger Mann with NCT9-1-1, North Central Texas Council of Government’s 911 Program.
Starting this week, though, wireless carriers are sharing quicker and more accurate information with 911 centers.
“We know we can save more lives by finding people quicker,” said Mann. “It’s just huge news for us.”
NCT9-1-1, which services 911 centers across much of North Texas, helped test the new software before its launch and was ready to go this week, when both Androids and iPhones using iOS 12 began sharing location information.
The city of Allen showed CBS 11 how it works.
Dispatchers still see a blue circle and red dots indicating the nearest cell phone tower to the caller, as well as the area where the caller is most likely to be.
Now, they can also immediately see a yellow icon in the specific spot where the caller’s phone shows they are.
“This is showing more toward the actual road,” said dispatcher Courtney Purser, pointing to a blue area highlighted during one call. “He was actually between these two buildings,” she said of the man on the phone, whose location was accurately shown by the new technology.
911 dispatchers still want callers to provide their location. There are times, though, when people can’t.
“Some people who call in, they’re real frantic,” said Purser.
In those cases, the more accurate location information could make an especially big difference.
“I now know exactly where to send our first responders, instead of sending them to a general area to look for somebody,” said Taylor.