911 Delays

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Mar 30, 2006
911 delay isn't bad connection
By Karen Sloan

Some people who call 911 from their wireless phones are getting an unexpected response: silence.

A glitch in some older-model cellular phones means that callers may hear two to eight seconds of silence when they place 911 calls in counties that have advanced cell phone-tracking technology.

The calls have not been dropped, said Roger Hixson, technical director for the National Emergency Number Association. The voice connection has been delayed.

The problem only occurs with phones that are tracked using a GPS system and in phones that were manufactured two or more years ago, Hixson said.

The problem is that the phones can't simultaneously transmit coordinates to GPS satellites and maintain a voice connection with the dispatcher, he said.

That delay has caused problems for dispatchers in Lancaster County, said 911 Director Julie Righter. Some callers hear the silence and assume their calls have been dropped and hang up, she said. Instead, callers should stay on the line and wait for the dispatcher.

"This isn't an issue we can really do anything about," said Joan Raffety, 911 coordinator for the Nebraska Public Service Commission. "We just have to wait for people to replace their older phones."
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