911 and cell phone issues briefed at Chatham Co. Commission

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - A shooting exactly two weeks ago in broad daylight in front of Collins Quarters on Oglethorpe and Bull Street in Downtown Savannah.

One person was shot, many calling 911 on their cell phones to report it and get help, but some people had posted on Facebook that when they called 911 the phone call went to the Glynn County Emergency Center.

So how does this happen?

In times of an emergency, every second counts. More and more people are ditching their landlines for their cell phones, and that's making the job tougher for 911 call centers.

A special presentation was given Friday about how 911 works at the Chatham County Commission meeting.

You can press a button on your phone, and Uber will send a car to your doorstep. Press another button, or ask Siri, and your phone will provide turn-by-turn navigation across Savannah, knowing exactly where you are. But there is no such button for 911.

Your phone knows exactly where it is, but if you call 911, it usually only gives dispatch and emergency workers a general vicinity of where you are.

Chatham County Commission was briefed Friday by AT&T officials about this.

The current system Chatham County uses does not relay the GPS coordinates from the cell phone when a 9-1 call is answered. The first problem is 911 relies on a cell tower's address, not the victim's location, and that also determines which 911 center answers the call.

The second failure is the mapping system that doesn't extend beyond the call center's jurisdiction.

The third and most critical failure is that a high number of wireless 911 calls don't display the location of the cell phone. That power rests with the cell phone carriers and their networks.

"Is there any plans to incorporate the GPS Location on the caller, through the phone switching center so you can pinpoint where the call is coming from," said Patrick Ferrell, Chatham County Commissioner.

"That will be the case one day in Georgia, instead of having a static database, it will all be GIS based, it will all be mapping based," said Dutch Heineck, AT&T representatives.

AT&T says the technology is already there, it is costly undertaking but they have it in places in Tennessee and rolling it out in Connecticut because state lawmakers demanded it.

Georgia does not have this in place. So until then, you will hear many 911 operators asking you first, where's your emergency rather than what is your emergency.

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