LaaSer and 911 Delays

October 12, 2016
Jon Harmer


Timely location accuracy is critical in emergency situations.  It sounds cliché, but when people’s life is on the line, every second truly counts.  The FCC has estimated that over 10,000 people’s lives could be saved by reducing 911 response times by just one minute.  Another way to think of that number is that it represents a commercial jet crashing every week of the year, and everyone on board perishing.  How is this not front page news?  What is going on here?


There are a myriad of issues that contribute to these response times. One issue that happens is when mobile callers have to be transferred from the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that received their call to a different PSAP because they are initially routed to a PSAP that cannot dispatch help to their location (called a Phase 1 misroute).  We have seen some PSAPs where this happens to 1 in 5 of their inbound calls, and this can add 30 seconds or more to the handle time of a call.


Another issue that happens to every single call is that the first address presented to 9-1-1 dispatchers is the address of the cell tower that picked up their call.  This is the Phase 1 address, and is what determines which call center people will get routed to initially (which causes the previous issue when the caller is near a jurisdictional border.)  9-1-1 operators are trained to ignore that address and to query the caller for their location, or for landmarks that could lead to their location.  Anything to help that operator determine where the caller is because the technology they are working with is too often wrong. This manual location determination can take as little as 40 seconds and sometimes the caller can’t provide any useful information that would lead help to them, as was the case in George Treadoway’s unfortunate case.


LaaSer is starting a comprehensive testing effort in coordination with a number of local municipalities spanning multiple states.  The primary goal of these tests is to provide both a baseline of performance for the four national carriers as well as to measure LaaSer’s performance.  The tests will measure the speed to a location fix as well as the accuracy of that fix across a number of different environments. Tests will be performed in urban, rural, suburban, highway and marine locations, and across multiple different conditions (stationary, moving, indoors, outdoors, etc.).  We will also measure the frequency of Phase 1 misroutes, where callers get connected to a PSAP that cannot dispatch help to their location.


Ultimately, we hope to be able to have a thorough picture of the current state and show how we could truly be saving time and saving lives when LaaSer is available on every mobile device across the country and ultimately, across the globe.