Having precise, updated information about your business can make public safety response quicker and more effective. You can get started by creating a Smart 911 Facility account, a free service to the community that allows businesses and organizations to share critical information with 911 and first responders in case of an emergency. Go to www.smart911facility.com and click the Register Now button and begin sharing important information right away.
Why is this important? While as a society we have become accustomed to having information available at our fingertips, this hasn’t yet expanded into the 911 system. You may have heard the question, “Why can Uber find me but 911 can’t?” This is a perfect example that shows how the 911 system hasn’t caught up with technology, but here at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA), we are working on it. In 2015, we upgraded our 911 telephone system from analog to digital and are preparing to connect to a new, updated state emergency services 911 network which will eventually allow digital information to flow through the network and into the 911 center.
But what about this Uber question? The location any app on your cell phone is using is based on what it thinks its location is (device location). This device location is using a lot of different technologies, sensors and algorithms to determine its location, and that is the blue dot you see on the map. But the location that is used when you call 911 is the location your carrier thinks is your phone’s location (network location), and that is different.
When you call 911, your carrier doesn’t have access to your precise device location, so your carrier has five seconds to determine your phone’s location and decide what 911 center to route your call to. This is why sometimes you can call 911 and you get the wrong 911 center – your carrier may be using the cell phone tower location to determine the right center to deliver your call to, and, especially if you are near the river, the tower may be across the Columbia River. This is also why your 911 call taker will ask you for your location and usually ask you to verify it a second time. Knowing your location when you call 911 can help us help you.
Progress is being made to upgrade to Next Generation 911 (NG911) – a fully digital 911 network where carriers connect to 911 digitally, and all that data can be directly delivered to 911 and/or public safety responders. In the meantime, we have enlisted the help of Smart911 to allow citizens to create personal accounts to share information to us during an emergency and Smart911 Facility to do the same for businesses and organizations. As a business owner or leader of an organization, creating an account will allow you to upload floor plans, key holder information, utility shut offs, AED locations, gate codes and precise locations of each telephone on your premise. All of this information is then available to the 911 call taker and first responders.
Other ways CRESA has worked to engage technology to advance 911 services is by adopting text-to-911 (call if you can, text if you can’t) and through a partnership with Rapid SOS to receive device based locations from eligible phones when they call 911. You may have seen a recent story on the Today Show about Uber’s new app that will deliver rider, car and location information to a 911 call taker. While this isn’t available in Clark County yet, we are poised to become part of the initiative once it makes it here.
Ways you can help us help you:
- When calling 911 know your location
- Post your business location in a conspicuous place
- Create a Smart911 facility profile – www.smart911facility.com
- Create a Smart911 personal profile – www.smart911.com
- Sign up for public alerts – clarkpublicalerts.org
Learn more at cresa911.org
Katy Myers is the Technical Services Division Manager at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA). Reach her at Kathleen.firstname.lastname@example.org.