When the original Emergency 911 system was created, they created a Master Street Address Guide (MSAG). This was a database that included the location of every phone. The database contains every phone number, address, and the associated information. The information associated to each phone number is the owners name, street address, city, state and zip code. It also includes the emergency service number that is associated to that specific address. The emergency service number is what tells the 911 Dispatcher, which response units to send to your location. This identifies which fire department, law enforcement agency, and ambulance service needs to be dispatched.
The problem that has occurred as technology has developed is that cell phones are not physically tied to a specific address. Therefore cell phones do not fit into the MSAG like a regular landline phone. If we were to put the billing address into the MSAG, then when you call 911 in any place, you would always be routed to the Dispatch Center where you live. This obviously could be a problem when you are commuting or travelling. We cannot route your call based on the address of your phone, we route those calls based on the address of the cell phone tower that you have connected to. In theory, the cell phone tower that you have connected to is in the jurisdiction where your emergency is and therefore, you will be routed to the correct Dispatch Center; however, when you are near the edge of the jurisdictional boundary lines this does not always work correctly. When you are near the boundary of two jurisdictions, your cell phone can connect with a cell phone tower in the other jurisdiction. When that happens your phone call is then routed to the wrong Dispatch Center.
We deal with incorrectly routed 911 calls on a daily basis. We are constantly getting 911 calls that one of our neighbor Dispatch Centers should have gotten. Over 90% of our 911 phone calls come from cell phones. Citizens should know that when you call 911, you may have ended up at the wrong Dispatch Center. Have patience with the Dispatch Center that you have reached, while they figure out which Dispatch Center they need to transfer your call to.
There is a fix coming to this call routing problem and it is called Next Generation 911. While the media focuses on the Text-to-911 pieces of Next Generation 911, the real news is in the call routing that will be changed as part of the impending upgrades. The call routing will move to a GIS based routing and discontinue the use of the MSAG. The new call routing will use the GPS location of your cell phone to find your location on a map. The Emergency Service Numbers will be built into the GIS based map and then route your call to the correct 911 Dispatch Center. It will no longer matter which cell tower you connected with and your call will be correctly routed to get you help in the fastest and most efficient manner.
A candidate that believes in partnership with citizens to make our communities safer.