San Francisco teams up with Uber, location tracker on 911 call responses

Gwendolyn Wu at San Francisco Chronicle: “In an effort to shorten emergency response times in San Francisco, the city announced on Monday that it is now using location data from RapidSOS, a New York-based public safety tech company, and ride-hailing company Uber to improve location coordinates generated from 911 calls.

An increasing amount of emergency calls are made from cell phones, said Michelle Cahn, RapidSOS’s director of community engagement. The new technology should allow emergency responders to narrow down the location of such callers and replace existing 911 technology that was built for landlines and tied to home addresses.

Cell phone location data currently given to dispatchers when they receive a 911 call can be vague, especially if the person can’t articulate their exact location, according to the Department of Emergency Management.

But if a dispatcher can narrow down where the emergency is happening, that increases the chance of a timely response and better result, Cahn said.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on with the emergency if we don’t know where it is,” she said.

RapidSOS shares its location data — collected by Apple and Google for their in-house map apps — free of charge to public safety agencies. San Francisco’s 911 call center adopted the data service in September 2018.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates agencies could save as many as 10,000 lives a year if they shave a minute off response times. Federal officials issued new rules to improve wireless 911 calls in 2015, asking mobile carriers to provide more accurate locations to call centers. Carriers are required to find a way to triangulate the caller’s location within 50 meters — a much smaller radius than the eight blocks city officials were initially presented in October when the caller dialed 911…(More)”.