The Alexandria 911 Center on Wednesday launched a major upgrade that can pinpoint the exact location of a caller and send help faster in an emergency.
While Uber drivers and food delivery services can find a customer’s exact location using their cellphones, most 911 centers still cannot. The industry is plagued by outdated technology that relies on cell phone towers to estimate a caller’s location.
The city’s new partnership with RapidDeploy adds cloud-based technology, which uses data from a caller’s cell phone to help determine the location of the emergency more accurately than older technology.
The upgrade will give 911 responders in Alexandria a better idea of which floor a caller is on in a building. It can update a caller’s location information as they move and can even activate a caller’s video remotely and stream live video from their phone directly to the platform. .
Renee Gordon, director of Alexandria’s emergency communications department, says this is a game-changer.
“I am delighted to be able to arrive on time and get there quickly. I am delighted to be able to follow up on a call and I am just delighted for the whole region,” said Gordon.
In April, the News4 I-Team revealed how nearly 100,000 local calls are sent to the wrong 911 center each year and require a transfer, usually along a border with a neighboring jurisdiction.
Last year, for example, nearly 1,000 calls destined for Arlington went first to Alexandria, and more than 500 calls destined for Alexandria went to Arlington.
This new technology won’t completely eliminate the problem of misrouted calls, but RapidDeploy CEO Steven Raucher said it will help get 911 calls to the right agency faster.
“If you’re on one side of the Potomac and a cell phone tower picks you up on the other side, your call goes to a 911 center that can’t actually help you,” Raucher said. “And that way, we make sure that the 911 center that answers your call knows exactly where you are. They immediately know you are passing through the wrong center.”
Raucher said this allows them to make the call to the right center faster, saving them valuable time, which can be critical in an emergency.
It also cuts down on the time employees at the wrong center will spend dealing with a call that isn’t really theirs. Calls to 911 will appear on the Alexandria map, even if they are routed to another branch first.
“This is the crucial part that with our platform, the phone doesn’t even have to ring before Alexandria can see there’s a call nearby,” Raucher said.
Alexandria is the first 911 center in Northern Virginia to launch this new technology, which will be especially helpful if a caller does not know their location or cannot speak because they are injured or in danger.
Raucher said the company is also exploring partnership opportunities with other agencies in the national capital region. The 911 Center in Montgomery County, Maryland, has confirmed that use of the technology is already underway, but no launch date is scheduled yet.