STEUBENVILLE - The Jefferson County 911 center in May received 68 percent of its calls from cell phones, said Robert Herrington, county 911 director, at the Jefferson County Safety Council lunch meeting on Wednesday.
Herrington said the number of people calling 911 from a cell phone has been gradually increasing over the past several years. He said major cities, such as Miami, receive about 90 percent of its 911 calls from cell phones.
The 911 center can pinpoint the location of a cell phone call down to about 25 to 50 feet. He said the technology used to be around 100 feet. Jefferson County was the 16th county in Ohio to get full location technology to pinpoint cell phone calls, he said.
911 CELL CALLS — The number of cell phone calls to the Jefferson County 911 center has been increasing during the past several years. The use of the cell phone to call 911 was among the items discussed by Robert Herrington, county 911 director, at the Jefferson County Safety Council lunch meeting on Wednesday. - Mark Law
"It still is not as good as a landline," he said.
A landline call comes into the center and within 1.7 seconds the information on where the landline call was placed comes up on the 911 dispatcher's computer screen. The information actually comes from a center located in Boulder, Colo., he said.
The problem with a cell phone call is that the caller may be in a moving vehicle, so the 911 system constantly has to be recalculating the location of the call, Herrington said.
The next generation of 911 will include the capability for sending videos and text messages via a cell phone to 911. Herrington said a woman involved in a domestic violence situation, who locks herself in a room for protection, can text information to 911 without having to speak, which may escalate the incident. He said video also can be helpful in a wreck or other emergency situation because the 911 dispatchers can pass on the information to emergency responders.
The technology to track cell phone calls costs about $800,000, which was paid through a surcharge on cell phone bills, Herrington said.
The location ability with cell phone calls has cut down on prank calls being made to 911, he added.
The cell phone location ability saves lives because a person can call 911 if involved in an ATV wreck, falls from a horse or is involved in a motor vehicle accident and is unsure of the location, he said.
Herrington also explained the reverse 911 system, where individual homes can be contacted in the event of a road closure, utility disruption or weather emergency.
The 911 system also is working on mapping the interior of schools and getting 360-degree digital photos that can help emergency responders in the event of an incident at the schools. He said the project is funded through Homeland Security. He said 911 will be asking for permission to tap into school security cameras, which he said will be a controversial subject.
"Some schools will participate, and some will not," he said.
Herrington said 911 has received grant funding through the Port of Pittsburgh to monitor critical infrastructure along the river, including bridges, locks and dams and power plants using video cameras.
Herrington said the 911 center also received a Port of Pittsburgh grant to purchase a mobile command vehicle. The 33-foot long vehicle will contain a meeting room and communication equipment that can be used as headquarters for emergency responders in incidents. He said the $400,000 vehicle also can plug into the 911 system and be used as a backup system if something happens to the 911 center, located at the county airport.
The vehicle is set for delivery in September.