1. Download the SirenGPS application on your smartphone
2. Create an account
3. Keller Residents: Join the “City of Keller” Community, which will allow you to receive local emergency alerts
4. Fill out your profile to provide additional health information or emergency contacts to dispatchers
5. When you need help, call 911 through the SirenGPS app (it’s fewer clicks than a normal call!)
Keller in December 2016 became the first emergency dispatch center in the country to launch what first-responders are calling “Uber for 911,” a tool that recent FCC studies estimate could save more than 10,000 lives annually in the United States.
People calling 911 from Keller, Colleyville, Southlake and Westlake are now encouraged to call 911 using the SirenGPS mobile app. The St. Louis-based company’s technology will offer dispatchers who serve nearly 98,000 people pinpointed location data for more than 90 percent of calls.
“The reality is Uber could find you faster and easier than traditional 911 because they use an app-based product with GPS technology, and that’s a huge problem when more than 80 percent of our calls are now coming from cell phones,” NETCOM 9-1-1 Manager Warren Dudley said. “The beauty of this product is that it will run parallel to our traditional capabilities and improve our speed, accuracy and efficiency. It is going to revolutionize our ability to take care of our residents.”
Today, location information for cell phone calls to 911 often shows up as the cell tower being pinged. Dispatchers can then retransmit their location request, which can improve results — but FCC criteria updated in 2015 require that cell phone carriers meet a standard of delivering a “dispatchable” location for only 40% of cell phone calls by 2017. The FCC defines “dispatchable” as a location accurate to within 50 meters, which is further complicated by the majority of calls to 911 being made from indoors.
When someone calls 911 from SirenGPS, the app generates a 911 call just like calling from the dial pad and additionally uses the internet to deliver a “911 call event.” Because the two are sent through parallel delivery systems, the “call event” can reach dispatch even when cell service has been knocked out. Data delivered to dispatchers includes the caller’s location alongside any other profile information they’ve chosen to provide, including important medical history and emergency contacts. Users also indicate which service they need — police, fire or EMS — when they call, and that information is delivered in real time not only to dispatch operators, but also to active police and fire units in the field.
“In our trials, caller pinpoints were dropping on the map at dispatch before the phone even rang, which is particularly helpful if a cell tower bounces a caller to the wrong dispatch and they need to be transferred,” Dudley said. “There are also huge implications for when someone can’t speak to us either because doing so would put them in danger or because of the nature of their medical emergency — language barriers, too shaken up to speak, you name it. We’ll know where callers are and what they need with the push of a button.”
In addition to 911 locating services, the City of Keller will transition its emergency mass notification system to the SirenGPS platform. Emergency notification subscribers may continue to receive alerts via phone, email and text, and app users will also begin receiving emergency communications via optional push notifications. Users will additionally have the new ability to respond to those alerts via text, corresponding with emergency officials in group or private chats.
- Nationally, the FCC estimates that 70% of 911 calls are placed from wireless phones
- In 2015, NETCOM 9-1-1 received 38,865 emergency calls; 81.79% came from cell phones
- A January 2016 report by the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 48.3% of American households do not have a landline and that 57.7% of children live in wireless-only homes
- The current FCC standards adopted in January 2015 require that carriers deliver a “dispatchable” location for 40% of cell phone calls by 2017, and for 80% by 2021. The FCC defines dispatchable as a location accurate to 50 meters or less
- SirenGPS provides an accurate location for more than 90% of calls
‘Uber for 911’
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler discussed the possibilities of this sort of technology last year in connection with the commission’s new standards requiring cell phone carriers to deliver a “dispatchable” location for 80% of calls by 2021, saying:
“But let there be no mistake – we are establishing a floor, not a ceiling. It is a beginning, not an end. We should not be satisfied with a situation where Uber can consistently find a user’s house via an app, but the EMT’s location fix is within half a football field 80 percent of the time. I hope our efforts will encourage app developers to work with the public safety community to develop an ‘Uber for 911.’ Imagine – the carriers would be improving their capabilities, while “there’s an app for that” could harness the capabilities that enable Google, Uber, or Waze to find a consumer with pinpoint accuracy.” (Read Full Statement)
About NETCOM 9-1-1
The Northeast Tarrant Communications Center is a regional 911 dispatch serving nearly 98,000 people in the cities of Keller, Colleyville, Southlake and Westlake. NETCOM 9-1-1 started in 2007 as a partnership between the cities of Southlake and Keller, which has provided police services to the Town of Westlake since 2003. The City of Colleyville joined the partnership in 2009. Housed at the Keller Police Station at 330 Rufe Snow Drive, NETCOM was the first regional dispatch of its kind in Tarrant County. Through the end of October, NETCOM has answered more than 36,018 emergency calls in 2016.
SirenGPS is a U.S. company developing emergency management software for public safety, schools, business, hospitals, events and venues. SirenGPS tools are designed to improve emergency communication with enhanced 911, mass notification and related services. Interoperable communications support first responder and emergency management efforts in the public sector and the private sector throughout communities, promoting safety and resilience where you live, work and play. For more information, call 800-570-3807 or visit www.sirengps.com.