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UK Shows The Way Towards Accurate Emergency Caller Location

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The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) reports that a new service, produced in the UK by BT (British Telecom), digital communications provider EE, and mobile device maker HTC is providing Advanced Mobile Location (AML) up to 4,000 times more accurate than the current system being used, saving lives, time, and money.

About 60 per cent of emergency 9-9-9 and 1-1-2 calls in the UK are now made from a mobile - 22 million calls a year or 60,000 a day - all of which are handled by BT call centres. Currently, emergency services are only able to identify approximate locations of callers to within a few square kilometres. As a result: 

  • 9-9-9 calls from a mobile take 30 seconds longer to handle on average than calls from landlines; it can take three minutes of extra questioning of often stressed or injured victims to determine the location. 
  • In an estimated 36,000 critical incidents reported by mobile every year, the emergency services spend 30 minutes or more searching for the location. 
  • In around 330,000 emergency calls a year, the caller is unable to speak to the dispatcher – having only imprecise cell information for the location when the call is from a mobile can prevent the emergency services from responding. 

The new geographical location system, called AML (Advanced Mobile Location) provides 9-9-9 dispatchers with pinpoint location data to save time and lives. It can identify the source of a mobile phone emergency call to within 0.003 square kilometres [0.001 square miles], less than half the size of a football pitch, instead of several square kilometres. 

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When an emergency call is made with an AML enabled smartphone, the phone automatically activates its location service and sends its position by text message to the 9-9-9 service - on average within 18 seconds. This text message is not visible on the handset and is not charged for. The text is automatically matched to the voice call and compared to the network’s cell-based information to ensure it is valid. The location is then sent to the appropriate emergency service, supplementing the cell-based information. 

Developed by BT, EE and HTC working closely over the last 12 months, AML is currently available for emergency calls made on the EE network on all new HTC phones.  There is also interest in AML from other countries in Europe, where there is the same challenge to find mobile emergency callers more quickly. 

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Gary Machado, Executive Director of EENA stated: “Inadequate caller location information has been an obstacle for emergency services all over Europe for many years. The UK has taken the lead and created an innovative, cost effective solution and EENA congratulates BT, EE and HTC. This exemplar work should be replicated in other European countries and we urge other mobile network operators, handset manufacturers, 1-1-2 agencies and regulatory authorities to follow suit as expeditiously as possible.”

Sue Lampard, president of British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (BAPCO), said: “I’m delighted to see this development. The 9-9-9 service has remained voice-centric since 1937 – whilst multimedia technology has developed around it. In the 21st century it is hard to believe that the UK emergency services are unable to receive good location data – they are reliant on the caller to tell them. Invariably during a 9-9-9 call, the caller will be distressed, so trying to pinpoint their location adds unnecessary time before resources can be deployed. 

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Said Richard Webber, director of communications for the College of Paramedics, “We welcome this initiative as it will help save lives across the UK. There have been many cases where there has been a delay in locating where someone is calling from during an emergency so this is good news. Some callers are not always familiar with their surroundings and this will speed up conversations and help ensure we can get an ambulance or rapid response vehicle to where it's needed as soon as possible. We also urge other networks and handset providers to follow the lead provided by BT, EE, and HTC in order to save more lives.” 

EENA is delighted to see such an important development taking place and would like to warmly congratulate John Medland, BT’s 999 Policy Manager, who said: “This is a major breakthrough and will undoubtedly help save lives. It is obviously vital for the emergency services to get fast, accurate information so they can pinpoint where an incident is and provide help as quickly as possible. AML will help to cut response times, particularly for calls where there is only minimal location information. We’re really looking forward to the other mobile networks and manufacturers making this available too, and are working with all UK mobile networks to help this happen.”

EENA hopes that this will serve as an example all around Europe showing that better protection of citizens can and should be achieved.

For more information on EENA, see www.eena.org

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via EENA, 11/5/14)

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