More Android phones will share your precise location when you call 911 in the United States, thanks to a couple of new partnerships worked out by Google. The change will save lives.
Most 911 calls come from cell phones, but until recently mobile devices didn’t share your precise location with emergency dispatchers. Phone companies can provide a rough location, but your phone’s GPS capabilities are a lot more accurate.
Emergency Location Services is built into phones running Android 4.0 or newer, but it only works if your wireless carrier or the local emergency call center can pass along the information. Google’s new partnerships, with RapidSOS and T-Mobile, mean more US residents now live in areas compatible with ELS.
RapidSOS provides software used in 1,000 emergency call centers around the US, covering about 100 million US residents. Emergency Location Services will now kick-in for anyone living in such an area. A separate partnership means all T-Mobile customers are covered by the program, regardless of where they live. Residents of the US Virgin Islands are also covered, thanks to another deal.
From the official Google blog:
In testing the technology in the U.S., emergency centers have told us ELS has already helped save lives in their jurisdiction, decreasing the average uncertainty radius from 159 meters to 37 meters (from 522 feet to 121 feet). At the Collier County Sheriff’s office in Florida, a caller who had given an incorrect address was able to be found thanks to ELS. And in Loudon County, TN, ELS helped emergency responders get to a non-English speaking caller who was struggling to communicate her address.
Google isn’t alone on this front: Apple added an emergency location feature to iOS 12, which came out this week. It’s taken a while, but emergency systems are finally catching up with the mobile era.