FCC updates 911 emergency call protocols

The FCC this week adopted new rules to help emergency responders better locate wireless 911 calls.

Today most 911 calls originate from wireless phones, and usually from indoors. E911 wireless location technology was geared toward outdoor calling. Now, with the majority of wireless calls from indoors, establishing location is spotty, often inaccurate, and can lead to tragic results.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn cited a case in which a 911 caller could do little but listen as kidnappers tortured the caller, who managed to dial 911 twice from his cell phone. Tragically, the 911 dispatchers were not able to trace the location of the cell phone call.

“To close this gap in performance,” wrote the FCC, “the Commission today updated its E911 rules to include requirements focused on indoor location accuracy. The new rules are intended to help first responders locate Americans calling for help from indoors, including challenging environments such as large multi-story buildings, where responders are often unable to determine the floor or even the building where the 911 call originated.”

The rules set benchmarks and timelines for location accuracy by wireless providers.

FCC adopts rules to help emergency responders better locate wireless 911 callers (FCC news release, Jan. 29, 2015)

Statement of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on Wireless Location Accuracy Requirements (FCC document, Jan. 29, 2015)