A new computer software has the potential to allow the Athens-Clarke County Police Department to locate 9-1-1 callers more quickly and effectively.
It’s called RapidSOS, and it was free for the department. Jonathan Jones, who works for Athens Police, said 90 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from cell phones, and location-accuracy is a longstanding problem in the police department.
Before the introduction of RapidSOS, Athens police relied on location information from cell phone towers, which would often be unreliable or inaccurate. RapidSOS estimates 10,120 lives are lost each year nationwide when mobile callers can’t be located. That’s one reason why Athens police said they needed to do something.
Here’s how it works: Rather than use location data from wireless carriers and cell phone towers, RapidSOS takes location data directly from sensors on your smartphone, bluetooth, smart watch or other device to get an accurate location. Callers do not need to have any specific app; it is solely downloaded by the police department.
Leslie Phelps, a 9-1-1 communications operator, said the software updates the caller’s location about every four seconds and saves all previous location points, so operators can tell emergency responders exactly where the caller is going and has been.
According to RapidSOS, help gets to users up to 5 minutes faster, which can drastically alter the outcomes of emergencies.
The Athens Police Department said it adopted this software a little over a month ago and has already seen improvements in location accuracy. They said they are the first department in the area to obtain RapidSOS.
Sydney Heiberger is a senior at The University of Georgia pursuing a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in sociology.