Northwest NEWS

December 28, 1998

Front Page

Washington 9-1-1 calls can now detect caller's location

   By year's end, 9-1-1 calls for emergency assistance can be tied to its originating wired phone set from nearly any of the 3.5 million wired phone sets in Washington.

   When 9-1-1,the universal emergency number, is dialed, the caller's phone number is automatically displayed on a screen at one of the 90 "public safety answering points" which dispatch emergency services to the caller's location. An enhanced 9-1-1 system allows an immediate and automatic display of a caller's name, phone number, and location.

   "This means that emergency police, fire, and medical responders can more quickly bring critical aid to the caller," said Bob Oenning, state 9-1-1 administrator, "increasing the potential for saving lives. This is particularily important when a caller is unable to verbally give directions or supply other location information."

   Oenning said all telephones, including coin-operated phones, are part of the 9-1-1 system. Some phones--cellular and those on privately-owned systems--have technological limitations and cannot pass on location information. The state is working with both to ensure all systems can pass vital location information to dispatch centers.

   In 1991, Washington voters passed a referendum directing counties to offer enhanced 9-1-1 communication systems by Dec. 31, 1998. In 1992, when this law went into effect, only seven counties offered such service. Twenty counties provided basic--name and phone number only--coverage, and twelve offered no 9-1-1 service.