911 Calls Will Be Easier to Track in DC With New Software

What if you need to call 911 but don't know exactly where you are? 

D.C. 911 dispatchers now have an easier time locating emergency calls from smartphones, using a new software.

The new software, called RapidSOS, can pinpoint a smartphone call's exact address and soon will be able to locate specifically where and what floor a person is on in a building.

Years ago, pinpointing emergency locations were easier because most calls were made on landline phones. Today, about 80 percent of all 911 calls are made from cellphones. And until now, dispatchers could only get a general sense of where calls were being made, typically neat the closest cellphone tower.

Karima Holmes, the director of D.C.'s 911 call center, said about a quarter of the District's 911 callers don't know where they are, either because they're visitors, children, elderly or in distress.

"You dial 911 and you forget," she said.

This new technology is being used by 911 call centers across the country, including in Hawaii, where a kayaker recently capsized and needed emergency help but didn't know exactly where they were. 

"Trying to locate them in the water, they said, 'I’m in the water somewhere,' and we were able to pinpoint exactly where they were," said Jeff Robertson, a manager for RapidSOS.

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