North Texas Towns Test ‘Uber for 911’

SirenGPS App
Keller, TX

The North Texas community of Keller is about to become the first city in the nation to utilize a 911 mobile app to help dispatch emergency services. The app is being called “Uber for 911” by authorities.

People in the North Texas communities of Keller, Colleyville, Southlake, and Westlake are being asked to use a new mobile app when calling for emergency services beginning this week. The app, SirenGPS, will offer increased accuracy of more than 90 percent in dispatching emergency services to the nearly 98,000 residents served by the NETCOM 9-111 emergency call center, according to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the City of Keller.

“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 cell phones,” NETCOM 9-1-1 Manager Warren Dudley said in the written statement. “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.”

When mobile callers use cell phones currently to make emergency calls, the dispatcher received the location of the cell tower being pinged by the phone. FCC rules updated in 2015 require cell phone carries to, by 2017, “meet a standard of delivering a ‘dispatchable’ location for only 40 percent of cell phones.” The term “dispatchable” is described as being a location “accurate to within 50 meters.” This system becomes more complicated when call are made from within a home of other building. This is the case in the majority of 911 mobile calls.

The SirenGPS app uses a dual delivery method to make the emergency call. The app generates a cell call just like the one that would be initiated by the phones dial pad, officials stated. At the same time, an internet call is made to deliver a “911 call event.” The app uses the phone’s ability to more accurately pinpoint its location along with any additional profile information the caller has chosen to include. Such information might include the caller’s medical information, along with emergency contact data. The app also allows the caller to pre-designate what service they are requesting–police, fire, or EMS. The use of the app delivers vital information in real time, official’s states, to either the dispatch operators, and the police, fire, or medical units in the field.

“In our trials, caller pinpoints were dropping on the map at dispatch before the phone even rang, which is particularly helpful if a cell tower bounces a caller to the wrong dispatch and they need to be transferred,” Dudley concluded. “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. We’ll know where callers are and what they need with the push of a button.”

The system can also be used by emergency service and disaster management officials to push out information to residents. App users will be able to receive emergency communications directly from dispatch or emergency management centers and be able to respond to those alerts via text messages.

The FCC estimates that 70 percent of emergency calls for assistance are made from wireless phones. The NETCOM 9-1-1 dispatch center processed nearly 39,000 emergency calls for assistance – nearly 82 percent from wireless callers.

With nearly half of all family homes not having traditional landline phone service and nearly 60 percent of children living in homes without landlines, the ability to accurately dispatch emergency calls has been becoming increasingly difficult, according to the Keller statement. The SirenGPS app is reported to provide an accurate location in more than 90 percent of calls.

Residents of the communities listed above may begin utilizing the advanced dispatching service by downloading the app for iPhone or Android. Once downloaded, officials said the user will be prompted to create an account and join the “City of Keller” community on the app. Users will then be asked to fill in emergency medical information and contacts that can be transmitted to dispatchers in emergency situations.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the app “Uber for 911.” Imagine – the carriers would be improving their capabilities, while “there’s an app for that” could harness the capabilities that enable Google, Uber, or Waze to find a consumer with pinpoint accuracy.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.