Washington RapidSOS Emergency Response Technology Saves Mother’s Life


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Two counties in Southeast Washington implemented RapidSOS technology, which allows first responders to more precisely locate people who need help in an emergency, reported the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Last fall, the technology saved a woman’s life when her first-grade son, Karl Burnstad, called 911 after he found his mother unconscious. 

Tracy Burnstad had been diagnosed with a medical condition that causes her to lose consciousness – and the longer she’s out, the more chance she has of dying, according to the Union-Bulletin. 

Karl’s quick thinking combined with the RapidSOS system enabled emergency responders to locate Tracy in a remote part of Columbia County, which saved her life.   

Today, about 80 percent of emergency calls in the U.S. come from mobile phones, according to The National Emergency Number Association, and there’s an apparent disconnect between the way people call for help and aging 911 systems. Emergency systems were designed to work with landlines are not equipped to help first responders pinpoint the location of those in need today since most are dialing 911 from a cell phone.

 RapidSOS, based in New York, developed technology that sends location data from mobile phones to a “clearinghouse” accessible to emergency calling centers that have upgraded to the technology. According to Melody Darby, director of the Garfield County emergency management department, the system is so accurate that her team can find someone in a moving vehicle.

 “It shows us on a map; we can narrow it down to a block and an address. It might not be perfect every time, but it gets us very, very close,” said Darby. She added that the service is free for emergency call agencies, with the cost covered by carriers.

“Without Karl dialing 911, it is very unlikely his mother would have survived,” Ashely Strickland, director of Columbia County’s emergency management department, said in a release. “Without RapidSOS, emergency responders would have been significantly delayed in reaching her, putting her at greater risk.”

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