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December 13, 2016
Texas dispatch tests 'Uber for 911' app
By Mark David Smith
FORT WORTH, Texas — They’re calling it “Uber for 911,” and a Tarrant County dispatch center is the first in the U.S. to use the tool that could save thousands of lives in one year nationwide.
This week, Keller launches the SirenGPS mobile app, which will give dispatchers and emergency responders a much better location for emergency calls, according to a Keller news release.
“The reality is Uber could find you faster and easier than traditional 911 because they use an app-based product with GPS technology, and that’s a huge problem when more than 80 percent of our calls are now coming from cellphones,” regional dispatch manager Warren Dudley said.
“The beauty of this product is that it will run parallel to our traditional capabilities and improve our speed, accuracy and efficiency. It is going to revolutionize our ability to take care of our residents.”
Oftentimes on traditional 911 calls from cellphones, the location information shows up as the nearest cell tower, the news release said. The Federal Communications Commission will require cellphone carriers to deliver a “dispatchable” — an accurate location within 50 meters — for just 40 percent of cellphone calls by next year.
To use the app, download the SirenGPS app on your smartphone, create an account and fill our your profile information.
In contrast, the SirenGPS app delivers the caller’s pinpointed location for more than 90 percent of calls, and will work even when cell service isn’t available, the news release said. Users can also upload profile information, such as medical history and emergency contacts, and they can indicate which emergency service they need.
The profile information can prove to be life-saving, Dudley said.
“There are also huge implications for when someone can’t speak to us either because doing so would put them in danger or because of the nature of their medical emergency — language barriers, too shaken up to speak, you name it,” Dudley said. “We’ll know where callers are and what they need with the push of a button.”
Calling 911 through the app is “fewer clicks than a normal call,” the news release said.
The news release cites an FCC study that estimates using this kind of technology compared to traditional cellphone calls could save more than 10,000 lives per year in the U.S.
The Northeast Tarrant Communications Center fields 911 calls for Colleyville, Keller, Southlake and Westlake, serving almost 100,000 residents.
The city of Keller will also move its emergency mass notification system to the Siren GPS platform.