Calling 911 from a cell phone? Location may be confused

Posted at 11:04 PM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 02:04:49-04

More than 70 percent of Americans use their cell phone to call 911, but your cell phone can alter your location.

Valley dispatchers are trained to answer your call by first asking for your address, and then asking about your emergency. 

It may seem backward, but dispatchers can't send help if they don't know where you are.

"When a cell phone call comes in, we don't have an exact address like we do with a land line," said Deputy Chief Jeff Case. "We just don't have that one link we had with the address."

GPS coordinates generated from your smartphone aren't always accurate.

Lead Dispatcher Brant Keeney has taken calls for help from as far as Flagstaff.

"The tower signal bounces around and it comes down in the Valley and somebody reported a car fire or auto accident or some other emergency and are giving us locations that make no sense at all," Keeney explained. "Our maps don't show where someone is at up north."

It sounds obvious, but before you call 911 know your exact location. Time is of the essence and pinpointing a location can be the hold-up.

"They aren't focused on that, they just want to tell you what is going on," Keeney said. "But if a caller doesn't know where they are it becomes an extended question and answer situation."