Lost on the line: Local communities rolling out tech that helps 911 find you

A Cobb County woman died in a house fire this week and it's raising questions about whether 911 calls were routed to the wrong fire department.

11Alive first reported on the problem more than two years ago.

ATLANTA -- A Cobb County woman died in a house fire this week and it's raising questions about whether 911 calls were routed to the wrong fire department.

It's a nationwide problem first revealed and reported by the 11Alive Investigators more than 2 and a half years ago. Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe not only discovered 911 calls routinely going to the wrong 911 center, his investigation also inspired the invention that will soon fix that problem.


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2 years after tragic 911 death, what's changed?

Next month, six communities will gain access to a new technology known as LaaSer which will allow emergency calls to be routed to the right 911 center and for those 911 centers to pinpoint the caller's location.

A Cob County woman died in the fire.

"When we call 911 through the cell network we're ending up in the wrong jurisdiction," Fred White said.

He was parked at the same pond where Shanell Anderson called 911.

Dispatcher: "911, what is the address of your emergency?"
Shanell: "I'm in a car in a lake." 
Dispatcher: "Where?"

Years later, White and Michael Self tried again from the same location.

"OK, here we go," Self said.

Dispatcher: "911, what's the address of your emergency?"
Michael Self: "This is not an emergency call, this is a field test call only. Can you please validate the address on your CAD display?"
Dispatcher: "Um, the phone is showing 300 Batesville Road, the CAD is showing 374 Gables Walk."
Michael: "Both of those are the cell tower."
Michael: "It's still about a mile away."
Michael: "Is this Alpharetta?"
Dispatcher: "It is."

"We're in the wrong jurisdiction," White said.

This is exactly what happened to Shanell's 911 call. She was in Cherokee County but her call hit a tower in Fulton County.

Shanell: "Ma'am, I'm losing air very quickly."
Dispatcher: "Give me the address one more time. It's not working."

Then, the inventors call 911 using the same phone as before, but with their technology activated. LaaSer and it uses the phone's sensors to determine precise location before routing the call to the correct 911 center.

Dispatcher: "Cherokee County 911. What's the address of your emergency?"
Michael: "This is not an emergency call. This is a technician field test call. Can you please verify the address on your CAD display?"
Dispatcher: "Yes, well the phone display is showing 1 The Fairway. Hey, are you there?"
Michael: "Yes, it's 1 The Fairway in Woodstock, Georgia?"
Dispatcher: "Yeah, it's showing 1 The Fairway."

White said that by using their technology, they were able to call and be located within a few feet of where they were sitting. They were also diverted to the correct 911 jurisdiction for the location.

LaaSer will soon be implemented in Alpharetta, Milton, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Johns Creek. 11Alive will follow up with information on how to enable this technology wherever it's available in the coming days.

Though Governor Nathan Deal had previously declared 911 issues a local - not state - issue, a new committee under the Georgia Emergency Management Agency is set to have its first meeting next month.  Deal first vetoed a bill for a similar committee passed by the general assembly before creating one housed by the state agency.


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