Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New St. Charles County System Will Map Location of Cellphone 911 Calls

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New St. Charles County System Will Map Location of Cellphone 911 Calls

Article excerpt

ST. CHARLES COUNTY * A driver in a rollover accident on the Page Avenue extension earlier this month used a cellphone to call 911 but was unable to give a precise location to the O'Fallon police dispatcher on the other end.

The driver knew only it was somewhere between Highways K and 40 a 4.5-mile stretch.

"We could have gotten the proper agency involved quite a bit more quickly had the "X" marked the spot immediately," said Capt. John Neske, who heads O'Fallon police's administrative division.

Under a new countywide 911 system expected to be operating by late April, county officials say, emergency dispatchers will be able to immediately pinpoint and map the location of most calls coming in from cellphones.

Now the county's police agencies can't do that, said Jeff Smith, who heads the county's Department of Dispatch and Alarm.

That's a problem because more than 70 percent of the 150,000 emergency calls made in the county last year were from cellphones, he said. And the percentage is expected to go up in the future.

In contrast, dispatchers automatically get addresses and phone numbers for 911 landline calls.

While most cell users do give dispatchers a specific location, some cannot like that driver on the Page extension, also known as Highway 364.

Others may not be able to because of their circumstances, police say. Sgt. George Grove, communications supervisor for St. Charles police, said about a week ago a woman used a cellphone to call 911 to report that her boyfriend was punching her but didn't have the correct address.

Eventually, police figured out where they were. But the boyfriend left before police arrived, he said.

Unlike the police agencies, Smith said, his dispatch department which handles fire and ambulance calls countywide already has good mapping capability.

The new 911 setup, Smith said, also will have other advantages. …

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