It is often the case in popular movies and television shows that a person in trouble calls 911, and simply leaves the phone off the hook in order to furtively give the 911 dispatcher information about their location. These scenes drawn on a popular conception that 911 dispatch personnel have the ability to quickly trace the exact locations from which calls originate. But the truth is that different areas of the country have different 911 emergency response systems, and while many can trace land line calls, cell phone calls are still not widely traceable in many areas.
A recent report out of Clay County Florida indicates that up to 90% of all incoming 911 calls are from cell phones. But, in cases where the caller is not able to accurately identify their location, authorities still may have difficulty finding them. Though Clay County continues to update its 911 system, for the time being emergency calls from cell phones remain untraceable. This is not to say that dispatchers don’t have any information about a caller’s location. Dispatchers can locate the nearest cell phone tower to the caller, but this could still be up to several miles away.
For now, 911 dispatchers who cannot pinpoint a cell phone caller’s exact location, must call the cell phone company and ask for the location. This process can reportedly take 5 to 10 minutes to complete – time that is extremely valuable in the case of a serious emergency.
In order to best assist 911 dispatch personnel in quickly and properly sending emergency responders to your location, Clay County recommends that you always be aware of your location. Additionally, a new 911 emergency response system, being implemented in April, will allow Clay County emergency response professionals to link a home address with a cell phone number in a database, for faster and more accurate emergency call responses.