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Survey Highlights Cell Phone Safety Gap: Two-Thirds Think 9-1-1 Can Find Them Indoors, but Carriers Fight Location Requirements

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Wednesday, August 27th 2014
| Washington, DC


Large Majority Support FCC Rule Requiring Carriers to Provide Accurate Indoor Locations, Want Rule Enforced

Aug 26, 2014 - A new survey of more than 1,000 consumers found a dramatic gap between the limited location requirements for cell phone carriers and broad public expectations that wireless callers can be found by emergency responders if they dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.

According to the survey, two-thirds of cell phone owners (66 percent) thought that wireless companies could help emergency responders locate them at least to their block, if they call 9-1-1 from inside their homes.  Only 6 percent of cell phone owners correctly responded that the information would likely only be accurate to the neighborhood level or worse.

When told that current FCC regulations do not require cell phone carriers to provide an accurate location for callers inside buildings, 83 percent said it was very or critically important to public safety for the FCC to adopt a rule to require cell phone companies to generate that information.  Reinforcing those findings, 79 percent said the FCC should begin enforcing the rule within two years, with nearly half (46 percent) saying the FCC should begin enforcement immediately.

"When people dial 9-1-1 on their cell phones, they think the operator can find their location to send help," said Jamie Barnett, Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition and former Chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. "Unfortunately, the carriers have chosen cheaper, less effective location technologies, and people are dying because emergency responders can't find them.  If you call 9-1-1 on your cell phone inside or in an urban canyon, the carriers' technologies will often fail to accurately locate that call.  Happily, technologies exist now that can find callers indoors and save lives. The carriers' responsibilities should match consumer expectations that they can be found when they dial 9-1-1 from indoors."

Survey respondents also said that they would be willing to vote with their wallets, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) saying they would consider switching cell phone companies to a provider who could more accurately and reliably find 9-1-1 callers.

Among the survey's findings:

  • Most think all wireless 9-1-1 calls can be found: By a 7-1 margin, respondents thought that emergency responders could find their cell phone's location if they dialed 911 in an emergency (59.0 percent to 8.5 percent).
  • Indoor callers think 9-1-1 locations accurate to block or house level: Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that cell phone companies would share location information accurate at least to their block, and 55 percent believed it would be accurate at least to their house if they called 9-1-1 while at home.
  • Cell phones are most common way to reach 9-1-1: Of respondents who have dialed 911, 57 percent most recently used a cell phone, not a traditional land line.
  • Half of 9-1-1 calls come from indoors or urban canyons: On their last 911 call from a cell phone, half of respondents were inside a physical building (42 percent) or in an urban canyon (8 percent), where GPS technology is not reliable.
  • Most deeply concerned over lack of indoor location requirements: More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) said they would be extremely or very concerned if they learned that cell phone companies were not required to provide an accurate indoor location to emergency responders.
  • Proposed FCC rule is vital to public safety: 83 percent said the proposed rule is critically or very important to public safety in their communities.
  • FCC should implement requirements of rule within two years: Four-fifths (79 percent) said the FCC should begin enforcing the rule within two years, with nearly half (46 percent) saying the FCC should begin enforcement immediately.
  • Most oppose any delay in indoor location requirements: A large majority (71 percent) oppose any delay in implementation of the FCC's rule.
  • Consumers wiling to switch companies for better 9-1-1 accuracy: Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) would consider switching their cell provider to a company with a more accurate system for 911 callers, with one in three (30 percent) saying they would definitely or probably do so.

According to FCC estimates, at least 10,000 lives a year could be saved by improvements in response time through the FCC's proposed rule. The full results of the survey can be found at findme911.org/news/.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted online among 1,048 adult cell phone owners in the US from August 15-18, 2014.  The survey was conducted via SurveyMonkey.com using a custom audience sample selected from the site's 30 million users.  The survey had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

About the Find Me 911 Coalition

Find Me 911 is an effort supported by more than 200,000 individuals, as well as national and local organizations. The individuals and organizations represent a broad range of 911 operators and first responders – emergency medical services personnel, fire fighters and police.  Find Me 911 seeks to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) move forward quickly to establish a reasonable, measurable level of location accuracy for emergency calls made indoors, enabling first responders to locate emergency calls from wireless phones from all locations rapidly and efficiently.

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