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Will 911 Locate You When You Call?


By Joe Novak

When you dial 911 on a land line, the dispatcher has access to your location, but this is not the case when using a cellular device. Since the majority of the 911 calls are now made on cell phones, how do you know they will find you? Cell phones use towers and the towers span a large area so your location is shown in a general location when seconds could mean life or death. Note: If there is an emergency and you grab your cell phone to call 911, stop and use a land line if possible. It may save a life!

When calling 911, first tell the dispatcher where you are; city, street address, street name and a landmark if you don’t know your exact location. Joe’s Bar and Grill is across the street or just past Bubba’s Garage. If you are in a multi-floor building, tell them which floor you are on and room number.

If you need an ambulance, fire, or police, explain why in a clear calm voice, even given as difficult as this may be. Then listen for instructions or questions.

Here is an interesting fact; any cell phone, even one not assigned a carrier can dial 911. You can get an older phone and charger and keep it by your bed just for emergencies. Hook the charger to a timer so it charges only four hours a night and not 24 hours every day. Make sure there is a cell signal available in your area and know that dispatch can’t call you back on this phone. Amish could use a solar charger during the day. Kids should not play with a phone that can only dial out 911.

Now you are asking yourself: Google knows exactly where I am, why not the 911 dispatcher? 911 technology is lagging behind having been built on a 1960s platform and though they are working to improve the system, it will take time and money.

Caution: if you download a 911 app for your cell phone, research the app thoroughly since some apps are not performing as promised and your call could go astray, never reaching 911 dispatchers. There is a pay to subscribe app: RapidSOS that I have been researching. This app is a one-touch emergency dial system that can pinpoint your location and send it to 911 call dispatchers as well as family. I have not had time to thoroughly research this app, however it sounds interesting and promising and I highly recommend you research any before signing up.


Joe Novak retired from PGS,Inc. a manufacturing company he sold in 2005. He has written more than 140 articles for The Middlefield Post and is active in his community and church. Joe’s articles are based on his life and business experiences and though he tries to be as accurate as possible, he recommends you contact an expert or professional when in doubt.


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