Tacoma 9-1-1 Agency Deploys RapidSOS Technology
Friday, August 23, 2019 | Comments

South Sound 9-1-1 in Tacoma, Washington, deployed RapidSOS technology to receive more accurate cellular location data for 9-1-1 calls the agency receives.

In Pierce County, Washington, where more than 81 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from cellphones, the “know your location” message has become increasingly important over the years. The existing 9-1-1 system was designed for landlines associated to a fixed location, so obtaining accurate location information from mobile callers needing emergency aid has been challenging for 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers nationwide.

While RapidSOS does not eliminate the need for callers to know their location, it will help responders get better location information.

“When someone is in distress, sometimes the simplest information — like knowing where you are — can be difficult to remember or relay,” South Sound 9-1-1 Executive Director Andrew Neiditz said. “If there’s a tool we can use to get that vital information in order to do the work better, to help first responders, and to dispatch the proper response, we want to use it.”

South Sound 9-1-1’s use of RapidSOS means the technology is available for calls placed within the jurisdictions of all 38 local police and fire agencies in the county. For the agency to use the service for a 9-1-1 call, the public should ensure cellular phone operating systems are up to date, and a device must be able to send data. Only 9-1-1 centers with access to the RapidSOS Clearinghouse will receive device location information during a 9-1-1 call for calls made from iPhones (iOs 12+) and Android (version 4.0+) devices.

The data provided by RapidSOS comes from “connected device companies,” which provide mobile applications and “smart” technologies, and location data from Google and Apple. RapidSOS location data supplements, but does not replace, existing 9-1-1 and carrier-provided location information and may not be available for every call. A variety of technical factors may impact the availability and accuracy of device-based location, such as the need to allow simultaneous voice and data delivery, a statement from South Sound 9-1-1 said.

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