A large gap exists between public expectations that wireless callers in emergencies dialing 911 can be located by emergency responders and the FCC’s limited location requirements for cell phone carriers, according to a survey of 1,048 U.S. adult cell phone owners from Find Me 911 conducted by SurveyMonkey.
Two-thirds of cell phone owners incorrectly believed that if they used their mobile phones inside their homes to call 911 wireless companies could assist emergency responders locate them at least to their block. Just 6 percent correctly believed that wireless company location information would likely only be accurate to the neighborhood level or worse.
Eighty-three percent of survey respondents said it was very or critically important to public safety for the FCC to adopt a new rule requiring cell phone carriers to provide more specific location information with 911 calls when informed that the FCC doesn’t require cell phone carriers to provide an accurate location for callers inside buildings.
At least 10,000 lives could be saved a year if emergency response times were improved, according to FCC estimates. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of survey respondents said they would consider switching cell phone carriers to one that could more accurately and reliably locate 911 callers.
“When people dial 9-1-1 on their cell phones, they think the operator can find their location to send help,” Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition and former Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Jamie Barnett was quoted in a press release.
“Unfortunately, the carriers have chosen cheaper, less effective location technologies, and people are dying because emergency responders can’t find them. If you call 9-1-1 on your cell phone inside or in an urban canyon, the carriers’ technologies will often fail to accurately locate that call.”
Key findings from Find Me 911’s survey include:
- Most think all wireless 911 calls can be found: By a 7-1 margin, respondents thought that emergency responders could find their cell phone’s location if they dialed 911 in an emergency (59.0 percent to 8.5 percent);
- Indoor callers think 911 locations accurate to block or house level: Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that cell phone companies would share location information accurate at least to their block, and 55 percent believed it would be accurate at least to their house if they called 911while at home;
- Cell phone calls to 911 more common: Of respondents who have dialed 911, 57 percent most recently used a cell phone, not a traditional land line;
- Half of 911 calls come from indoors or urban canyons: On their last 911 call from a cell phone, half of respondents were inside a physical building (42 percent) or in an urban canyon (8 percent), where GPS technology is not reliable;
- Most deeply concerned over lack of indoor location requirements: More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) said they would be extremely or very concerned if they learned that cell phone companies were not required to provide an accurate indoor location to emergency responders;
- Proposed FCC rule is vital to public safety: 83 percent said the proposed rule is critically or very important to public safety in their communities;
- FCC should implement requirements of rule within two years: Four-fifths (79 percent) said the FCC should begin enforcing the rule within two years, with nearly half (46 percent) saying the FCC should begin enforcement immediately;
- Most oppose any delay in indoor location requirements: A large majority (71 percent) oppose any delay in implementation of the FCC’s rule;
- Consumers willing to switch companies for better 9-1-1 accuracy: Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) would consider switching their cell provider to a company that had a more accurate system for 911 callers, with one in three (30 percent) saying they would definitely or probably do so.