Cell Phone Location System Pilot

Cell Phone Location System Pilot Burlington County will pilot “a project that is essential and integral to emergency response,’’ Freeholder James K. Wujcik said as the Board authorized accepting $101,755 in grant funds to implement a wireless 9-1-1 location project.

“Cellular phones continue to grow in popularity and we need to prepare for the future when they are a predominant source of communication,’’ Wujcik said. “That future is not far away.’’

The County Department of Public Safety Services has 78 telecommunicators who handle more than two million calls a year. Over 200,000 of these calls are 9-1-1 calls. No less than 57 percent of those calls are made from cell phones.

“These calls require a greater amount of time to process because telecommunicators must get exact locations in order to dispatch emergency service,’’ Public Safety Director Joseph Saiia said. “We cannot provide that assistance without proper locations. This technology, will no doubt save precious time that could contribute to saving lives.’’ The New Jersey 9-1-1 Commission, of which Saiia is a member, agreed to allow Burlington County to pilot the project, which is being funded by the Public Safety Foundation of America, an arm of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

The grant funds would be used to purchase the large monitors that are needed to properly display maps with the locations of wireless callers. These monitors will be installed in the newly renovated Communications Center at the Public Safety Center in Westampton as Phase 1 of the three-phase project.

Software would be purchased through the grant to enable the County’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System to be integrated with the County’s Geographic Information System (GIS). This will allow our 9-1-1 operators to utilize the latitude and longitude information that will be supplied with the wireless call to display the location on their monitors. This will be a great aid to help pinpoint the location of the emergency caller using a wireless phone.

The FCC has mandated that all wireless service providers forward location information with their calls. Within two years of October 2004, all new digital handsets must be capable of providing location information.

The final phase, which Saiia indicated possibly could be completed in-house, is verifying location accuracy. While the technology is maturing, it is not perfect. As the program is phased in, it is necessary to closely monitor the accuracy of the location information and work with the providers to ensure compliance with the FCC accuracy guidelines.

Saiia said the project should be completed and the service operational within two years.

The Public Safety Foundation of America was inspired by Nextel to provide financial grants and technical support to non-profit Public Safety Answering Points nationwide. Nextel has invested approximately $25 million.

The current round of grant funding was $2.5 million to 37 agencies in 17 states to enhance wireless 9-1-1 response.

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