Cellphone Likely Won’t Tell 911 Operator Your Location

The Federal Communications Commission has estimated that about 70 percent of 911 calls are placed from wireless phones, and that percentage is growing. For many Americans, according to the federal agency, “the ability to call 911 for help in an emergency is one of the main reasons they own a wireless phone.”  Yet, in an emergency, a cell phone may provide potential first responders with less information than one would expect. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA),which represents dispatchers, supervisors and private-sector service providers, points out that “when 9-1-1 calls are made from wireless phones, the call may not be routed to the most appropriate 9-1-1 center, and the call taker doesn't receive the callback phone number or the location of the caller. This presents life threatening problems due to lost response time, if callers are unable to speak or don't know where they are, or if they don't know their wireless phone callback number and the call is dropped.”  The organization’s motto is “emergency help, any time, anywhere, any device.”911 cell call

Recent published reports in Governing magazine indicate that “when you check movie times on your cellphone, search for a restaurant or hail a ride, the device automatically knows exactly where you are and can suggest things nearby. So it’s understandable that many people assume the same holds true when they call 911 for emergency assistance.  But the fact is, 911 call centers frequently receive imprecise locations of callers from wireless carriers -- and some don’t get any location information at all. Calls from landline phones are linked to addresses.”

The FCC website explains that “since wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address. While the location of the cell site closest to the 911 caller may provide a general indication of the caller's location, that information is not always specific enough for rescue personnel to deliver assistance to the caller quickly.”

More reliable and specific location information could save lives, advocates say, and earlier this year an order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set targets for companies to improve both the availability and accuracy of location information. But those upgrades remain a long way off.EmergencyResponse

Under the new rules, carriers will have to provide caller location info within 50 meters 80 percent of the time by 2021, along with vertical location information, if the call is being made from an apartment building or high rise office tower -- that would have to be in place in major markets by 2023.

Some have said the industry needs to provide those capabilities much sooner.  While 911 dispatchers routinely ask callers for their location, callers at times hang up before providing that information, for any number of reasons. And, they argue, if a cell phone knows where you are, that information should be instantly made available to 911 dispatchers as well.

The latest FCC guidelines are available for public review.  “We would have liked to have seen a more compressed timetable,” NENA CEO Brian Fontes told Governing.

Published reports in Connecticut indicate that some communities are moving forward with new technology.  The town of Wolcott, according to reports, has begun using a system that will allow police to pinpoint the location of emergency calls made from cell phones.  The Republican-American newspaper reports the town was the first in the state to use the next-generation system in a pilot program that was slated to include the New Britain, Wilton, Enfield, Newington, Valley Shore, Fairfield, Middletown, Mashantucket and Shelton police departments .  The new system shows dispatchers the caller’s location within a 50-foot radius, compared with the old system  which would indicate the location of a wireless 911 call within a quarter-mile radius.

Plans are also in the works that would permit individuals to text 911 from their cell phones.  The CT Post reported last month that about 24 dispatch centers out of 110 statewide are being upgraded to the text-to-911 system. Stratford and Fairfield will be among the first towns in the state to get the texting capability. Officials hope the entire state will have text-to-911 by late 2016 or early 2017, the newspaper reported.


Remembering Connecticut's Enduring Loss on 9/11

“Jeff Gonski does not need a network television special or a commemorative newspaper edition to remember what he cannot forget: It has been 10 years since Amy Toyen, his 24-year-old fiancée, vanished in a cloud of toxic smoke and twisted steel at the tip of lower Manhattan. When American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Amy was on the 106th floor preparing to make a presentation at a trade show for Boston-based Thomson Financial.” Boston magazine, in 2011, began its feature article with that stark recollection.  Legacy.com begins its remembrance by describing how that morning began.

“To catch her early flight on Sept. 11, Amy E. Toyen arose in Boston at 4 a.m. so she could arrive in New York City at 6:45 a.m., in plenty of time to attend the trade show in Windows on the World at 1 World Trade Center. Ms. Toyen, 24, was demonstrating a software product of her company, Thomson Financial in Boston, when her fiancé, Jeffrey Gonski, got a call at 8:58 a.m. — his caller ID showed it was her cellphone — but when he answered, no one was there.

Mr. Gonski haAmy Toyend met Ms. Toyen, who grew up in Avon, Connecticut, at their alma mater, Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., and had managed to pull off an elaborate proposal.

"We had just ordered her wedding dress," recalled her father, Martin Toyen. "She was so happy in her life — a woman in love, who loved her job." The wedding was set for June 16, 2002.

Toyen had lost a coin flip among business colleagues to decide who made the trip on Sept. 11; the night before, her flight from Boston to New York was canceled due to bad weather – but she was able to book a flight out of Logan International Airport at 6:00 the next morning.

After her death, Toyen’s parents would reflect on the luck that placed her in the worst part of the 110-story skyscraper, at the worst possible moment, the website MassLive reported. “It’s as if fate was telling her not to go,” said her father, adding that his daughter’s diligence pushed her to rebook the flight to get to the twin towers on time.

Since 9/11, Amy Toyen is remembered by those who knew her and loved her, those whose paths crossed hers along life’s journey, and by countless others, in her hometown of Avon, her native state of Connecticut, and well beyonddoc4e6796b9ae0265012592171.

A life size sculpture of a young Amy, funded by the student government of Avon High School, sits in the garden of the Avon Public Library.   Canton artist Marilyn Parkinson Thrall designed and executed the 22-inch bronze statue depicting Amy, sitting cross-legged on a bench and cradling a teddy bear as she reads a book on her lap.  Amy’s family sorted through many pictures in order to help Thrall capture her essence, incorporating her favorite daisy-print dress, tiny sneakers, and ponytails tied with pompom rubber bands. The statue sits upon a granite bench with a plaque that tells the full story.

Amy Elizabeth Toyen is one of the 2,977 people whose lives were tragically and abruptly ended on September 11, 2001, and one of 153 individuals named on Connecticut’s official memorial at Sherwood Island at Long Island Sound.

When the viewer faces the inscription on the state’s memorial stone they are oriented across the Sound to the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City, which had been visible from that scenic location. The inscription reads, "The citizens of Connecticut dedicate this living memorial to the thousands of innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001 and to the families who loved them."