RICHMOND, Va. – A new tool is now helping the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications to get fast, accurate location information from mobile devices for emergencies.
Getting the accurate location for an emergency is the top priority for 911 call-takers, and the first step to dispatching first responders. The new tool, RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, is an online platform to help pinpoint the location when the caller is unsure or unable to provide the location or when information provided by the cell phone company based on tower location is not specific enough.
This was the case on Jan. 13, when a Richmond 911 call-taker answered a call for domestic violence but was not able to get a location from the caller immediately. The 911 supervisor was able to find the location through the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse.
“In this case, the first responders were there more quickly, because of our use of RapidSOS, rather than waiting for the caller to give the address,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Rather than using radio signals from the telephone and triangulating the towers to get a general idea of the location, RapidSOS asks the cell phone where it is.”
Jackie Crotts, the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications deputy director of technology, said that it is simple to use. “Essentially when the enabled device (iPhone iOS 12 or Android version 4.0 and up) calls 911, the location is sent to the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse. Our 911 emergency communications supervisors make a request for the location, using one of our automated systems,” he said.
Crotts said that the location information is only available for active calls and only for those calls coming from the 911 emergency communications centers’ area.
“It helps us better locate callers, but nothing bypasses having a smart person behind the headset to get the best location and response,” Willoughby said.
RapidSOS is a free service available to authorized 911 emergency communications centers.
“The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications is leading the way in 911 technology to improve emergency response,” said RapidSOS CEO Michael Martin. “We are thrilled to provide Richmond call-takers and dispatchers with the information they need to get citizens help quickly in an emergency, saving lives and property.”