911 Calls From Cell Phones Could Delay Rescues

Lynchburg, VA - It's a growing concern for 911 dispatchers in our area; people calling in from cell phones, and not knowing where they are.

It presents a problem for dispatchers to locate the emergency, and depending on the call -- could put lives on the line.

The solution though, is plain and simple: know your location. Dispatchers say it's the hesitation we have that adds minutes to a response.

And when it comes to lives, minutes and seconds even, make all the difference.

A 911 call for a recent structure fire in Lynchburg was made from a cell phone. The caller did not know the address of the fire.

Crews made it to the scene, but only after dispatchers were forced to find the right location.

"There could be a delay in response, or we may not be able to send anyone at all if we don't know where you're at" said Lynchburg Emergency Services Deputy Director, Melissa Foster.

A call from a land line directly pin points the caller's location.

But with cell phones becoming the norm, it's forcing dispatchers to change the way they work.

"So this is showing her phone number and such over here and it shows wireless, w-r-l-s" read Lynchburg 911 dispatcher, Will Hedrick.

With the help of GPS systems, the cell phone can be located within a general vicinity of the calling area.

But if you're in a dense place with a lot of different addresses clustered together, a general vicinity is good, but it's not good enough.

"It can be hard, because it may plot on one house, but it could be any of the houses in that block range, or an apartment building" said Hedrick.

From there, dispatchers need to piece together landmarks or street names from the caller to determine exactly where they are; a process that can add several minutes to a rescue.

"It's important to make sure that you know where you're at and give your location when you call" said Foster.

"It helps us to get help that much faster, and you know, seconds and minutes can matter when it comes to someone's life" said Hedrick.

Dispatchers say it's imperative that you know your exact location.

They say it's just as important as all the other information you'll provide and could wind up saving a life.