FCC Adopts 3-Meter Metric to Locate 9-1-1 Calls from Multistory Buildings
Friday, November 22, 2019 | Comments

The FCC adopted rules that will help first responders locate people who call 9-1-1 from wireless phones in multistory buildings. The rules will help emergency responders determine the floor level of a 9-1-1 caller, which will reduce emergency response times and ultimately save lives, a statement said.

The rules require wireless providers to meet an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks in accordance with a timetable, including providing the caller’s dispatchable location, such as the street address and apartment number, or coordinate-based vertical location on a phased-in basis beginning in April 2021.

Specifically, the order adopts a vertical, or Z-axis, location accuracy metric of ±3 meters relative to the handset for 80% of indoor wireless 9-1-1 calls. This accuracy metric will more accurately identify the floor level for most 9-1-1 calls and is achievable, keeping the deployment of vertical location information to public-safety officials on schedule, the FCC said.

The commission is also seeking comment on establishing a long-term timeline for more stringent vertical location accuracy, including ultimately requiring wireless providers to deliver the caller’s specific floor level. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) has said a floor level location is most effective for 9-1-1 centers.

A broad cross-section of public-safety organizations — including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), NENA: The 9-1-1 Association, and the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) — supported the ±3-meter vertical location accuracy metric adopted, agreeing that it is technically feasible and will benefit public safety.

APCO is missing from the list of supporting organizations and has outlined its concerns with the new rules.

“The 3-meter metric we adopt today will get first responders close to those in distress, but, as I have noted in the past, floor-level accuracy is needed to ensure they get to the right place every time,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “I am pleased that the NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) seeks comment on transitioning to a more stringent metric.”

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