When Seconds Count: AT&T Launches Emergency GPS Location ID


AT&T is teaming up with 911 call centers to enable cutting-edge location identification. The Dallas Morning News reported that by the end of June, all emergency calls made through the wireless carrier would be routed to emergency call centers based on phone GPS data rather than cell tower data.

AT&T customers will automatically receive the service, co-created with Omaha-based Intrado. With the technology upgrade, emergency personnel can locate a caller within 50 meters of their actual location. “It’s a pretty big game-changer,” said Terry Goswick, executive director at North Texas Emergency Communications Center, responsible for 13 Dallas-Fort Worth counties.  

In emergencies, seconds matter, and the GPS solution will save up to 30-seconds, which could save lives, reported the Morning News. Previously, when calls were routed based on cell tower locations, being connected to an incorrect call center could mean being transferred and wasting precious time. According to Intrado, 10 percent of wireless calls and up to 50 percent of calls in public safety areas where state, county, or city boundaries overlap need to be transferred to a different call center.

According to the National Emergency Number Association, 80 percent of 911 calls are made on wireless phones, totaling 240 million annually (20 million in Texas). AT&T’s rollout will be lifesaving for someone in a traffic accident, or someone caught in a fire at a hotel with an unfamiliar address, Goswick said. Now, when someone calls 911 – even if they can’t speak – we’re going to be able to find them, he added.

Chris Sambar, AT&T Network’s executive vice president, said the GPS process of data location sharing happens automatically in the background. AT&T sends the phone’s information to Intrado, and Intrado gets the information from the device and sends it to the call center without either company seeing the caller’s location. Sambar added that call centers could use the nationwide tech without requiring a system upgrade.

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