Technology Trips Over 9-1-1 - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/7/05

Technology Trips Over 9-1-1

As technology advances, a few problems may arise.

A Houston family learned at the worst time they had no connection to 9-1-1. The reason, they were using a new technology that allows you to make phone calls over the Internet. This technology is called Vonage and you can buy it at various electronic stores.

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Here's how it works: hook a box up to your computer and you can make calls through that, rather than a traditional land line. The following is an example of one problem; during the robbery of Houston home, a woman used her internet phone service to call 9-1-1. She then got a message telling her 9-1-1 wasn't available through that service.

It's estimated that Vonage alone has four thousand subscribers in the state, and local officials are concerned of similar problems happening in Lubbock.

All this new technology frustrates 9-1-1 dispatchers like dispatch shift supervisor, Christy Hennsley. "It's frustrating on our end when we don't have all the information we need," Hennsley.

Vonage is one popular internet phone service. As it states on the company's website, you have to first properly register your system before you're able to call 9-1-1. But registering still may not get you to a dispatcher. Vonage registers as a seven digit number.

Exec. Dir. of Lubbock Emergency Communication District, Michael Grossie said that seven digit numbers likely call the police department rather than dispatch. Vonage doesn't give dispatchers your name, phone number or address.

"Technology is there to help us, however, technology's moving faster than the ways to identify it," said Grossie.

Cell phones are another problem if you're going to call 9-1-1, because dispatchers don't know exactly where you are located; they are working on that. They now have a program in place which tells them which cell phone tower you are near and that helps them narrow down your location.

"If it's a wireless, the program gives you a latitude, longitude coordinate number and you should be able to plug it into the computer and get somewhat of an idea of where the person is," said Hennsley.

The mapping system is one way to track callers. Newer cell phones have the GPS locating system, which gives more specific locations.

Until technology is perfected, Hennsley will likely have to endure more frustrating calls.

The Lubbock Emergency Communication District is trying to keep up. Last year they spent one million dollars for technology that helps to track cell phones.

Cox Communications also has a new digital telephone service. The technology is similar to Vonage, but Cox's service works exactly like your home phone and provides 9-1-1 service.

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