Cellphones Pinpoint Emergencies

by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – In a life-threatening situation where seconds matter, Craighead County’s dispatch service uses advances in technology to find someone’s location and provide them help.

Cellphones allow people across the nation to quickly access information at a touch of a button. In an emergency, it provides a lifeline to help. E911 Director Jeff Presley said GPS technology is vital for first responders in the line of duty.

“With smartphones that we’re using today, they’ve actually got GPS readers built into that phone. So when you activate a call for service or a 911 call, it automatically tracks that cellphone,” Presley said.

Dispatchers in Craighead County work around the clock, seven days a week. Mellenee Bennett actively works in emergency services and began her career in 2001. The public’s access to cellphones sometimes overflows the dispatchers.

“The thing is, if you’re going to take the time to call, give us pertinent information because our phone will just be ringing off the hook with everybody that has a cellphone,” Bennett said.

Last month, 90 percent of 911 calls came in from cellphones, Presley said. Sprint store sales associate Zach Vickers said the E911-texting option gives people another way to contact 911, but with a cost.

“It wasn’t just an inconvenience on consumers. I know it did raise cellphone bills up a small margin. But in doing so, it enabled consumers to be able to make emergency phone calls,” Vickers said.

Downloading emergency cellphone apps onto phones allow for third parties to be involved, not putting you directly with emergency services.

“I would be really weary of any third-party apps or anything that does not connect directly to your local 911 center because it could delay services getting to you,” Presley said.

The dispatchers in Craighead County rely on training and experience and are ready to take emergency calls, Bennett said.

“We’ve got probably 60-to-70 years of experience in here. So if I don’t know where they’re at, somebody’s going to know,” Bennett said.

When an emergency arises, remain calm and pay attention to surroundings, Bennett said. By listing personal information on smart911.com, first responders can use that to help police, fire and EMS in an emergency.