Cellular location solution makes a difference in Illinois
A high-accuracy location solution that does not require a cell phone to be in use has allowed a regional wireless carrier in Illinois to help law enforcement twice find users that were in dangerous situations during the past year, according to an official for the carrier.
Illinois Valley Cellular—a carrier that serves an eight-county rural service area from the Indiana state line to the south of Chicago—used Intrado’s Emergency Assist solution to find a teenaged customer, after a family member called law enforcement to report that the teen was in danger, according to Shelly Moore, director of intercarrier and network support for Illinois Valley Cellular.
“Somebody had contacted one of their family members, who had threatened bodily harm to themselves,” Moore said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “We were able to use Emergency Assist to locate them, so law enforcement could find them and get to them.”
A carrier’s use of Emergency Assist is a relatively straightforward process, Moore said, noting that the carrier only uses the location solution at the request of law enforcement.
“We won’t do it for just anybody; it’s just for law enforcement,” Moore said. “When [law-enforcement officials] call us, it’s very simple to use. All we have to do is put in [the missing person’s] cellular number and put in our point code—every cellular carrier has a point code, that’s how we route our calls. We click ‘Find,’ and it gives us the latitude and longitude of the phone, within 10 to 15 feet, maybe. We give the latitude and the longitude to the police, and they’re able to locate them that way.”
While there are other location technologies associated with wireless 911 calls, they require the user to call the 911 system to initiate location protocols. With Emergency Assist, a carrier can share the location of a user with law enforcement, even if the user is not making a call at the time.
“As long as the phone is registered and on, then we’re able to [get location information],” Moore said, noting that Emergency Assist does not work when a customer is roaming on another network. “If the phone’s off, obviously it doesn’t work.”
During a second situation in which a customer was threatening to harm themselves, Illinois Valley Cellular was able to help law enforcement locate a user that was not stationary, Moore said.
“They were moving, so I sat with law enforcement on the phone for probably an hour, and I would track them as they went,” she said. “I had to keep pinging them to see where they were, and they finally did get them.”
Such outcomes are welcome news, especially when compared to a fatal incident that spurred the carrier to seek a new location technology solution, according to Moore.
“We got [Emergency Assist], because last winter there was a lady around here that got stuck in a snowstorm after a Christmas party—so there was a little alcohol involved—and she got out of the car and walked,” Moore said. “She ended up passed out, and she didn’t make it.
“If we had had this [Emergency Assist] at the time, her phone was registered and we could see it was registered, but it wasn’t enough to find her. So, we found Intrado, and they had this service. If we would have had it then, we probably would have been able to get to her.”
Some Tier 1 carriers are able to provide public safety with similar location information, but the technology is too expensive for many smaller carriers to deploy on their own. Because Emergency Assist is a hosted solution that can be shared by multiple carriers, the Intrado offering has made this location capability affordable for smaller carriers, according to a company official.
Moore said that the deployment of Emergency Assist within Illinois Valley Cellular—previously an Intrado 911 customer—was completed “in no time” and that training was not a problem.
“There really is no training,” Moore said. “All you have to do it put in the number and click, ‘Find.’ You can’t get much simpler.
“It is so easy to use. And, if we can find one person, it’s well worth it.”