What's The Slowdown For Tulsa County's E911?

Tuesday, June 23rd 2009, 5:47 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- What is the status of Enhanced 911 service for cell phones in Tulsa County?  Everyone with a cell phone has been paying 50 cents every month for the past four years so 911 operators will know where we are when we call.  We still don't have the service.

Right now, in Tulsa County, if you call 911 from your cell phone, but can't tell them where you are, they can't find you by cell phone tower or GPS, which is scary, considering at least half of all emergency calls come in from cell phones.

Many people rely on cell phones, not just to keep in touch at work and with family, but as a lifeline in emergencies.  They can be life savers as long as emergency crews can find you in time.  But, in Tulsa County right now, they can't even though we've been paying for that very service for four years.  Our 50 cents a month has generated around $9 million.  The people in charge point out people on cell phones are still getting help.

"We still answer the phone. We may not know exactly where you are, but our dispatchers are generally  public safety dispatchers and are trained well enough to locate.  Some can't be found, but that's the exception, not the rule. For the most part, we've been giving quality service since E911 began," said Regional 911 Board Chairman Greg Fisher.

That's all well and fine, but what is taking so long?

They say the bid process took about two years and it took another year to order and install the $10 million worth of equipment and now, they are in the testing phase with the first carrier, AT&T Mobile.  They say one thing that took longer than anyone expected was creating a multi-layered map that all the agencies can use to accurately pinpoint cell phone callers.

"A detailed map to plot calls to make sure they're within the parameter they are supposed to be and not in someone else's city," said Regional 911 Board Chairman Greg Fisher.

He says 911 centers are just as anxious to have the technology because they also hate the idea of not being able to get to someone in trouble.

"It really is unbelievable to look at a map and dial 911 from where you are and it pinpoints where you're at," said Regional 911 Board Chairman Greg Fisher.

Theoretically, E911 will be available for people with AT&T mobile phones in Tulsa County in about 60 days and for all carriers in about a year.

See the map of county-by-county coverage for E911.