911 services improved

A new emergency service is now live, allowing 9-1-1 communication technicians to pinpoint the location of wireless “cell” calls made in the City of Columbus. The new system was turned on Feb. 3, at 11 p.m. and was completed with hour-by-hour steps becoming “live” during the evening of Feb. 4, followed by three to four weeks of field testing with the various wireless companies.

“This is life-saving technology that will help our police officers and firefighters find people in emergencies more quickly and provide the help our citizens need,” said Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “This is a great example of how our safety personnel can use high technology tools to do their jobs better.”

The Wireless E-9-1-1 system uses GPS triangulation tools to locate any cell phone call to within yards of a person’s location. A cell phone caller may not know their location, or could be unable to communicate because of injury, illness or because they are hiding from someone who would harm them.

House Bill 361, the Emergency Wireless 9-1-1 Funding bill was enacted in 2005 to fund the technology necessary to use and receive wireless telephone locations. Customers pay 32 cents a month, or $3.84 per year, on their cell phone bills to maintain the program. These funds are forwarded to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission for disbursement to all 88 counties and can be used only for wireless 9-1-1 associated costs.

Thirty-two Ohio counties are already able to pinpoint the position of 911 calls.  In Franklin County, the Franklin County Sheriff, Dublin, Grove City and Westerville Police are also on-line with the technology. 

“Franklin County has been a nationwide leader in communication,” said Commission President Marilyn Brown. “The implementation of the wireless E-9-1-1 GPS tracking capability is the most recent technology employed by Franklin County to protect our residents and families. I applaud the collaborative spirit in which all of the partners have worked to bring this system on-line.”

The City of Columbus has one of the largest 9-1-1 call centers in Ohio, which receives approximately 600,000 calls annually. Fifty percent of those calls are wireless.

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