- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2001

Guilford County, N.C., dispatcher Lori Slone had no idea where Mark Taylor was when he used his cell phone to call 911 Nov. 27. Before he could tell her, Mr. Taylor passed out from an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Paramedics found Mr. Taylor because Miss Slone heard their sirens on his cell phone which stayed connected after the victim lost consciousness and she used the wail of sirens to determine they were closing in on the caller, who survived the incident.

"To me, I was just doing my job," Miss Slone said.

But it shouldn't have been so hard, public safety officials said yesterday.

The Federal Communications Commission has ordered wireless-telephone companies to have the technology to let dispatchers like Miss Slone locate emergency calls from cell phones in little more than five months.

But some wireless companies have filed waivers with the FCC and may not be able to pinpoint calls from wireless phones by the Oct. 1 deadline.

"Yes, there are barriers, and some carriers have legitimate issues. Where there are verifiable barriers we're reasonable people we will work with the carriers," William Hinkle, director of communications for the Hamilton County Department of Communications, in Cincinnati, told reporters yesterday.

No carriers have the technology in place now to locate wireless callers.

Mr. Hinkle and other members of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials are stressing the need for carriers like AT&T; Wireless, Sprint Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. to meet the deadline for installing technology in cell phones that allows dispatchers to know where wireless 911 calls originate.

"If we can't locate victims, we can't send help," said Thera Bradshaw, director of the city and county of San Francisco Emergency Communications Department.

About 45 million people used cell phones to call 911 last year, according to the group, but police and fire dispatchers had no way to locate the callers if they were unable to tell them where they were.

James D. Schlichting, deputy bureau chief of the FCC's wireless telecommunications bureau, said it is hard to know how many carriers will be prepared to locate emergency calls from wireless phones by the Oct. 1 deadline.

AT&T; Wireless, Nextel Communications Inc. and VoiceStream Wireless Corp. have filed waivers with the FCC seeking an extension of the October deadline.

"There have been rumors of other waivers" being filed, Mr. Schlichting said.

It's too early to know how the FCC will respond if carriers aren't ready to locate wireless emergency calls beginning Oct. 1, Mr. Schlichting said. The agency could decide to fine carriers.

AT&T; Wireless spokesman Ritch Blasi said the company expects to have location-based technology in place by March 1.

"Cost wasn't the issue. It was about picking the proper technology," he said.

Reston-based Nextel also doesn't think it will meet this year's deadline.

It asked for a one-year extension because it still must develop computer chips that work with its cell phones and use global-positioning-system satellites to find callers.

While some carriers will use a network-based solution that relies on cell towers to locate callers through triangulation finding a caller by measuring the distance of a signal from three cell towers others, including Nextel, plan to install computer chips in cell phones that will send signals to global-positioning-system (GPS) satellites.

The GPS method will be more accurate. The FCC has said companies using GPS-based location technology must be able to come within 50 meters of pinpointing a caller's location 67 percent of the time, and within 150 meters 95 percent of the time.

The FCC has said companies using triangulation-based technology must be able to come within 100 meters of pinpointing a caller's location 67 percent of the time and within 300 meters 95 percent of the time.

No matter which method carriers decide to use, 95 percent of their phones must be equipped with the technology by December 2005.

Even though some carriers won't be ready to begin locating emergency calls from wireless phones in October, the industry is interested in offering the service because it will boost the reputation the phones have for increasing a person's safety, said Travis Larson, spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

"Safety is one of the reasons people get cell phones. This will add to that value," Mr. Larson said.

But carriers also expect to make money with location-based services.

One potential location-based service could pair an Internet map site like Mapquest with a restaurant-review service to give consumers information about restaurants near them without callers having to take the time to enter their location the location-based technology would pinpoint them.

Those commercial applications could be profitable for carriers, Web sites and the restaurants and other businesses hoping to lure people in, Mr. Larson said.

And that bodes well for emergency-services professionals who are increasingly worried that carriers are delaying the introduction of location-based services.

"Public safety has been waiting for years for this to arrive," Mr. Hinkle said.

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