February 2, 2010 By Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor
There are still too many stories about 911 call centers around the country lacking in their ability to respond the way most residents expect.
But there is good news as well, and one example is Escambia County, Fla., which installed a new mapping system that pinpoints 911 calls originating from cell phones. The FCC requires that 67 percent of wireless calls be locatable within 50 meters. That may not be helpful if the caller is in a building with many stories like an apartment or office complex.
With the new PlantCML system, a map pops up on the call taker's monitor and displays a red and yellow circle marking the caller's address or location. Previously call takers had to type in latitude and longitude coordinates on MapQuest or Google Maps. The graphics pinpoint the caller's location with a red and yellow circle as the operator maintains a conversation with the caller or dispatches a first responder.
The deployment of the mapping software took place in November and December 2009 and has worked well. There's a question about how well it will pinpoint calls from some of the older cell phones, however.
The mapping software deployment was part of three 911 projects, aided by three state grants.
For more information on the 911 mapping system, go to Emergency Management's Web site.