By Scott Freitag
There is an irony in public expectations when calling emergency services.
People expect to contact emergency services with the technologies they use to communicate every day and without unreasonable delays, while also expecting that their location is available to emergency services independently of the technology used.
The irony exists in both fixed and mobile networks.
For fixed telephone networks, problems include the exclusion of private numbers, the non-localization of calls initiated through public exchanges covering multiple buildings, and the non-standardization of data formats.
For mobile networks, the main problems include accuracy of localization, non-standardization of information transmitted to the PSAPs, and the time needed to provide this information.
Studies from various countries have reached the same conclusion regarding fixed and mobile networks (needs immediate attention) and have developed various approaches to meet challenges in the way the world communicates.
A study commissioned by the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) in 2010 highlighted the importance of improved caller-location technology to overcome obstacles with inaccuracy of then-current technology and caller information. It was also estimated that emergency services were not able to dispatch a rescue team for approximately 2.5 million calls due to the absence of sufficient location information.
As a result, in 2014, the U.K. introduced a new geographical location system called Advanced Mobile Location (AML). When a caller uses a smartphone in an emergency where AML is enabled, the phone automatically activates its location service to establish its position and sends this information via a text message to the emergency number systems, with a radius of 30 meters (approximately 95 feet) or less. The service uses GPS or Wi-Fi (whichever is better for the situation).
In April 2015, EENA also announced the availability of eCall, an in-vehicle system that establishes a connection directly with the relevant PSAP. Even if no one in the vehicle is able to speak—due to injuries, for example—a minimum set of data is sent to the PSAP, including the exact location of the crash, the vehicle’s identification number, a time stamp, and current and previous locations.
Each year, eCall is expected to save 2,500 lives throughout Europe, and, beginning in March 2018, all new car models in the European market must be eCall equipped.
In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required wireless carriers to locate 95 percent of GPS-enabled phones in an emergency. Those rules still apply, but only to outdoor calls. In early 2015, the FCC updated the rules to improve the ability of first responders to locate people indoors.
The E9-1-1 rules, released in January 2015, include requirements focused on indoor location accuracy. The rules establish clear and measurable timelines for wireless providers to meet indoor location accuracy benchmarks, both for horizontal and vertical information. Since this can’t happen overnight, the commission allows wireless providers to choose the most effective solutions with sufficient time for development, testing, and deployment.
Station location for multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) is also a hot topic in the U.S. Currently, 22 states have enacted or have pending legislation that addresses station location in a MLTS. Though the legislation differs to some degree, the representatives from these states are saying that organizations using MLTS must be able to deliver granular location information to the appropriate PSAP when a user anywhere on their network dials 9-1-1. Schools and universities, health care facilities, and multi-location businesses are examples of MLTS users.