York County has hired a State College-based firm to ensure the county's cellphone towers are detecting accurate locations for individuals calling 911 to report emergencies.
Engineers from L.R. Kimball will examine each tower to ensure they are accurately reporting latitude and longitude coordinates to the county's 911 center.
Dispatchers at the 911 center plug that information into the county's mapping system to determine which emergency responders should be alerted.
"Even if it's a mile off, it could negatively impact on tracking that person down and then it could have a negative impact on emergency responders trying to get to them," Carl Lindquist, county spokesman, said.
The project costs $83,900. It will be paid for by the county's wireless fund, which collects $1 from each monthly cell phone bill from York County's cell phone users.
Getting an address: Dispatchers get physical addresses when a person dials 911 from a landline.
However, if the person dials using a cell phone, dispatchers pinpoint the address using latitude and longitude through GPS technology in new phones. That technology typically gives the dispatcher a location within 82 yards of the caller.
Cell phone callers with older phones can still be traced, Lindquist said. In those cases, dispatchers would triangulate the location based on York County Department of Emergency Services' radio towers. That information gets the dispatchers a location within 328 yards of the caller.
This isn't the county's first effort to improve communication with 911 dispatchers. In April, the county spent a $1,000 state grant, generated from the surcharge on landline phones, and $1,000 matching county funds to rent six billboards listing key information needed when calling 911.
The state grant had to be used for educational and outreach programs. The billboards remind people, particularly children, to know their address, municipality and phone number when calling 911.
County commissioners Chris Reilly and Doug Hoke this week approved a contract for checks on the county's 200-plus towers. President Commissioner Steve Chronister was not at the meeting.
- Reach Amanda Dolasinski at 505-5437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.