For those of you who missed the broadcast, the Today show ran a very informative piece on the emergency call service known as 9-1-1. Many of us, if not most of us, residing in this country take the service for granted, and we consider it a safety line when we suffer some of the very worst tragedies life can throw at us. However, this newscast discussed what terrible outcomes can result when 9-1-1 calls concern operators who are not properly equipped to find the victim’s location. This is such an important topic, and it does pertain to those of us residing in and around St. Petersburg.
The story that prompted this investigation into the 9-1-1 location services was a heart-wrenching one. Many of us have had nightmares about drowning, but Shanell Anderson never woke from this real life nightmare. She was just 31 years old when she drove off the road and into a pond. It was approximately 4:00 in the morning and she had been delivering papers. A wrong turn took her into the water and she couldn’t get the doors to open, meaning that she was trapped within the sinking vehicle. She knew that she was going to drown if help didn’t come soon. She called 9-1-1 and gave them her exact address. Still rescue crews couldn’t find her because they couldn’t find the intersection that she told them on their maps. It took them nearly 20 minutes to respond. She was consumed by the water, while still on the phone with the dispatcher. Rescue crews were not able to revive her. When they finally arrived on the scene, the medics worked to restart her heart, but she never left her comatose state. She simply couldn’t pull through. It was later discovered that the phone call was picked up by a tower in a nearby town, which meant that her call was routed to the wrong dispatch office. This explains why the maps did not show the intersection mentioned. It took the office several minutes to reach out to other local dispatchers until the location could be confirmed. Yet, many are asking why Anderson’s phone didn’t give away her location.
According to the Today show, this is not an unusual occurrence. In some areas of the country, the chances of a cell phone transmitting a useful location to the dispatchers are as little as 10 percent. Last year in California, nearly two-thirds of all 911 calls failed to provide a location of the caller. Similar figures were reported by Texas authorities. If these large states are having such notable problems, it is safe to assume that the same could happen here in Saint Petersburg – in a state with the most vehicle drowning reports.
The Today show writers reported that these figures were quite consistent in other areas of the country, according to local, state, and federal agencies. However, there was some good news released in conjunction with this story – efforts are being made to correct the problem. Cell phone service carriers will be obligated to increase the percentage of calls that report accurate locations to 9-1-1. There is hope that the number of successful transmissions will increase to 80 percent within in the next five years.
This is good news, but not a great comfort to the family of Shanell Anderson, or to those who knew and loved Denise Amber Lee:
In 2008, Denise Amber Lee was kidnapped in Sarasota County, Fla., and dialed 911 while on the floor of her assailant’s car, but the dispatcher could not get a location from her cellphone. Lee was raped and murdered before she could be found.
According to the Today show report, as many as 10,000 lives could be saved annually with improved location services, making the need for upgraded technology quite obvious and well justified.
For those who do suffer as a result of poor response times, there is the option to seek legal assistance. It may be possible for a personal injury attorney to help you collect financial compensation for your losses.