Calgary's 911 centre to track cellphone callers
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | 11:16 AM MT
Emergency operators in Calgary will soon be able to trace cellphone calls within a few metres of the caller's actual location.
Out of the one million calls made to 911 each year in the city, about half are legitimate emergencies, and 200,000 are made from cellphones.
Right now, operators can track the call only to the nearest cell tower, which could be kilometres from where help is needed. But starting next week they will be able to get much closer to the caller.
"We'll be able to locate where a cellphone call came from to within about three to six metres," said Steve Dongworth, manager of public safety communications. "This is a significant step forward in the safety of the citizens of the city of Calgary."
Frustration over calls
Calls from cellphones can be frustrating because often callers are unable to say or simply do not know their location, Dongworth said.
"A lot of cellphone calls we're never able to respond effectively," he said.
The new system will measure the distance between the cellphone and a number of towers, then calculate a global positioning system location. The technology also tracks moving callers.
Last year the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered improvements by February to the way cellphones connect to the 911 system.
Emergency call taker Danielle Moffet said she is looking forward to being able to locate mobile callers.
"You don't want to go home worrying about that one caller that maybe you couldn't find them. I think if I can send them help quicker that will make my job much more fulfilling."
Mother's scream led to home
A cellphone call to 911 that recently captured headlines came from the wife of James Bing Jin Louie, who is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his children and attempting to murder his wife, Ying Louie.
She called 911 twice on her cell on Nov. 27. The first time the operator went through a series of routine questions for that type of situation and determined the children were not in imminent danger. The second time, only a scream could be heard before the call went dead.
An immediate call back went to voicemail, and the name on the message helped lead police to an address, where they say they found Louie and his wife in a struggle. The children, a 13-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl, were in fact dead before Ying Louie placed the first call.
Melanie Pisesky, who has 10 years of experience taking calls, said this incident deeply affected everyone involved, and the questions raised by the media over those calls were hurtful.
"It's hard to take and it's extremely hard to take when you're the call taker who is being second-guessed. We aren't perfect, although we strive to be," she said.
"That was a very significant event and to say that we're through it would be false," added Dongworth.
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