Communications & Dispatch, News

Enhanced 911 Now in Most of State

OMAHA, Neb. — Rescue workers are now able to pinpoint emergency cell phone call locations in about three-fourths of Nebraska.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission announced Friday that more than 93 percent of the state’s population live in areas served by an enhanced 911 system that allows dispatchers to trace a call to its longitude and latitude.

The entire Interstate highway system in Nebraska is included in the system.

For network-based phones, such as those from Alltel, Verizon and U.S. Cellular, a dispatcher can locate the caller to within 100 meters about two-thirds of the time and to within 300 meters about 95 percent of the time, said Joan Raffety, 911 coordinator for the commission.

For handset-based phones, such as those with an embedded GPS chip from providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, the call can be traced to within 50 meters about two-thirds of the time and 150 meters 95 percent of the time.

“It should pop up right where they call,” Raffety said.

The need for the enhancement became clear in January 2005, when a young Omaha couple froze to death in a blizzard near Gretna. They made cell phone calls for help, but dispatchers lacked the equipment needed to locate them.

A 2006 law requires all Nebraska counties to have the capability to locate cell phone callers by July 2010.