Car crashes, cell phones and 911: will emergency responders be able to find you?

For drivers and passengers involved in a serious car accident, sometimes the only way to summon help is to use a cell phone.  Unfortunately, if you have crashed in a remote area and don’t know where you are, or if you are severely injured and cannot speak clearly the emergency dispatcher may not be able to pinpoint your location or there may be a delay finding you.  Surprisingly, some 911 call centers lack the technology to pinpoint the source of a cell phone call, even though the technology is available.


Technological challenges facing 911 centers


This fact may come as a surprise to some people, since many already know that most cell phones today are sold with GPS locators or can be located by cell tower triangulation (these are known as E911 compliant phones).  According to the National Emergency Number Association about 10 percent of emergency call centers in the United States lack even the most basic technology needed to locate cell phone callers in an emergency.


However, even with the most up-to-date software and training, making an emergency call from a cell phone won’t always get you immediate assistance.  This is especially true in two places: rural locations and dense cities.


In rural locations, there can be a great distance between cell phone towers, so if emergency responders rely on triangulation to find you there could be a large margin of error.  On the other hand, cell callers in cities are often in densely populated areas.  Even if your call is pinpointed at a specific street address, you could have had an accident anywhere nearby (in front of the building, behind the building, on the side, etc.)


There is also a federally permitted margin of error on E911 complaint phones: 300 meters.  This is the same as about three football fields, and if you are located at one end of the football fields and responders start searching at the other, help could come too late.


Helping emergency responders find you after a crash


How can you help emergency responders locate you if you are injured in an auto accident?  Try to find somebody who knows the area and can accurately describe your location.  If possible, have somebody wait in an easy-to-spot location to wave down the emergency vehicles when they arrive.  Failing that, describe your location and how you got there to the best of your ability to the 911 dispatcher.


Lastly, 911 call centers are all behind on the most modern technology: the ability to receive text messages, videos, and pictures.  Until centers are upgraded to receive this kind of data from cell callers, you will have to make your situation known by talking to the emergency responder on your phone.


If you or someone you love has been injured in a Virginia or North Carolina car or truck accident, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Tavss Fletcher.



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