Experts: More cell phones falter in emergencies

Posted: Updated:

Following two recent tragedies in the Hudson Valley, more people are calling attention to a problem associated with using cellular phones to reach 911.

Dispatchers at Orange County's 911 center took 432,000 emergency calls last year. In most cases, the caller's location appeared on the screen, but when a call came from a cell phone, it was sometimes difficult to track.

Experts say it happens because some of the older cell phones only tell the dispatcher what cell tower they are getting the signal from instead of pinpointing the exact location of the caller.

In last month's fatal boating accident on the Hudson River, the victim called 911 from his cell phone, which some people believe caused a confusion that prevented rescuers from finding the capsized boat in time.

Last weekend, an 84-year-old Garnerville woman died waiting for an ambulance. It's believed that the call for help that was placed from a cell phone may have been directed to Westchester first.

Commissioner of Emergency Services Walter Koury says in order to improve the chance of being found and rescued, callers always have to know where they are located and watch for landmarks.

?Did they pass any churches, or schools, or grocery stores? Information like that will help our dispatchers pinpoint the location better,? Koury says.

It is expected that within two or three years, people will be able to send pictures or video from their cell phones directly to 911 centers.

In the meantime, experts advise cell phone customers to make sure their devices are equipped to send a GPS signal and keep the feature turned on so dispatchers can locate it in case of an emergency.

To see an interview with the sons of the Garnerville woman who died waiting for an ambulance, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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