'Smart 911' may help when dispatchers can't pinpoint location

In July of 2015, 24-year-old Richard Munroe pulled a BB gun on Austin Police officers.  Not knowing the gun wasn't the real deal, officers fired. 
   
About 20 minutes earlier, an obviously distraught Munroe called 911 and told the dispatcher he just wanted someone to talk to.  He wouldn't tell her where he was calling from.

"You can't like...track my location or anything can you?" Munroe asked.

"No, unfortunately the way your phone is set up it's not going to give us anything.  It will tell us the phone tower but that's a 3-mile radius," the dispatcher said.

Meanwhile officers were desperately trying to find Munroe to check on him whether he wanted them to or not.

"Is somebody outside my house?" he asked.

"We don't know where you are.  All I'm getting like I said is a cell tower number so officers are required to drive around that 3-mile radius," the dispatcher said.

And last week in Fulshear, a suburb of Houston, Christy Sheats shot and killed her 2 daughters.  Both of the daughters had tried to call 911.  According to the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office they were using cell phones.

Becky Rodriguez is the Operations Support Manager with the Round Rock Police Department.  They recently launched a "Smart 911" program in the city.

"Shorten the response time or provide a more informed response to your emergency," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says people can create a profile free of charge on the website and list any important information dispatchers would otherwise spend valuable time asking you: address, shortcuts to get to your home and other important details that Rodriguez says sometimes slip a callers mind during an emergency.

"Whether it be details about a vehicle, medications that you take, anything like that.  If we already have that we can just confirm that with you," she said.

Then whenever you call 911, the profile pops up on the dispatcher's screen -- a much more efficient system than what was in place before.

"We receive your address with a landline, we get coordinates with a cell phone and that's all the information we have," Rodriguez said.

As for the Austin dispatcher dealing with the limited information from a cell phone tower, according to CAPCOG, that's called "Phase 1 wireless," Rodriguez says not all phones are like that.

"Phase 2 911 technology drills down a lot closer.  It's not the cell phone tower, it's the GPS coordinates of your phone.  So you're closer, you're going to be closer on that," she said.

But with Smart 911, Rodriguez says dispatchers get the best data available to find you.

"If we have the approximate location with your GPS and we have a Smart 911 profile, we can link the two and narrow down or drill down a little bit further where we think that you likely will be," Rodriguez said.

Austin has not implemented a "Smart 911" program yet but the thing is, if you live here in the A-T-X  you can still sign up because it works in other cities you might be traveling through that have Smart 911 capabilities.
   
Click here to visit www.smart911.com

And click here for more information on Phase 1 and Phase 2 wireless.

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