911 infrastructure is getting old and that’s putting lives in danger.
Smartphones are exacerbating the problem.
A student in NY died after operators were unable to track his phone.
Departments across the country are scrambling to solve the deadly crisis.
(NewsReady.com) – Imagine your loved one is hurt and they call 911. They’re completely incoherent, so the operator has to trace their call. Nothing is coming up on their computer screen. They have no idea where to send first responders. Your family member has passed out and can’t respond any longer. Hours later, they’re found but it’s too late, they’ve passed away. It’s a scenario that nightmares are made of and it’s happening in the United States of America right now.
When 911 Can’t Help
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student Yeming Shen died in February 2020 from the flu. He called for help but nobody ever came. The 28-year-old dialed 911 six hours before his body was found but the emergency response system could not find his location.
On January 17, 2008, Denise Amber Lee was kidnapped from her Florida home in Sarasota County. She somehow got her abductor’s phone and called 911. During the six-minute phone call, she answered the dispatcher’s questions by pretending to speak to her captor. They were unable to pinpoint her location. Several other calls were made to the emergency line by other motorists, one was routed to the wrong county. Denise, the daughter of a sheriff’s deputy and mother to toddlers, was murdered that day.
In 2015, Shanell Anderson drove into a Cherokee County, Georgia pond while delivering newspapers. As water filled her car she told a 911 operator over and over again where she was. The dispatcher could not find the location, the line went dead, and the 31-year-old slipped beneath the surface. It turns out the call was picked up by 911 in the next county and it wasn’t discovered for several minutes. When rescuers pulled her out of her car it was too late, she died a few days later from organ failure.
Something Has to Be Done
Those three cases are not the only ones. People are dying because 911 systems across the country have not kept up with technology. The necessary upgrades will cost millions and many communities do not have that on hand.
Congress, however, has the power to right this wrong. The National 911 Program is under the purview of the US Department of Transportation and lawmakers could allocate funding to fix the problem. They’ve been aware of it for years.
Sadly, like many things, there doesn’t seem to be an urgency to protect the lives of the millions who call 911 every year. And until they make it a priority, our lives are all in danger.
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