911 Centers Relying on Towers for Locations

August 21, 2017

Reprinted from LocalSYR.com

According to the Federal Trade Commission, most calls to 911 centers today are from wireless phones and that percentage is growing.

“A Lot more people are getting rid of their landlines at home and just using the cell phones now. I’d say about 75 percent of our calls are now wireless based,” says Kevin Pooley, the Oswego County Director of Emergency Communications. Since cell phones are mobile, when a wireless call comes in for Pooley’s dispatchers – addresses are not automatically attached to the number.

First, the system tries to connect to the closest cell tower in the area for a general location. “Could be a two mile circle all the way around that tower site, or a three mile circle all the way around it,” Pooley explains. He says it often takes another 7 to 25 seconds to find more towers. If three are found, the system can zone in on an address nearby, by testing the cell phone’s signal strength to determine the most likely location between the three towers.