• Cell phones provide options for tracking in emergencies

    By Emily Rackers

    The Moberly Police Department uses a mapping system to locate where 911 calls are coming from. This system, while handy, is not as efficient as people believe.

    The map system works by tracking cell phone signals. If the phone call is longer, the system has more time to update the information and make the location more specific. This is problematic for callers with weak cellular signals because the mapping system isn’t able to track their location correctly.

    System mapping is one of the key reasons that 911 dispatchers try to keep callers on the line for as long as possible.

    Cell phone providers are able to triangulate locations much faster and more precisely than the department, but only if there are multiple towers in the area.

    “If you live in an area that only has one cell tower, there’s nothing to triangulate from,” Sgt. Troy Link said.

    The result is a large circle around the tower that can be difficult for emergency responders to search.

    In the event that the system cannot map the call and there are not multiple towers to triangulate from, the department has the option of requesting an emergency ping.

    An emergency ping is when cell phone providers activate the GPS tracking system in a phone and send the location to the police department.

    “We can, if we know the cell phone provider, we can contact that provider and we can complete paperwork for what is called an emergency ping,” Link said. “We fax it to them and then they will do an emergency ping of that phone.”

    The department must show the provider that there is an emergency need. These pings are often used in cases of kidnappings, fugitives, people who may be suicidal or those in medical distress. The only catch of the emergency ping system is that the phone must be on to be pinged.

    The Moberly Police Department must use all of their resources to locate and assist the people of Randolph County in emergency situations.

    Caty Eisterhold is supervising editor. Amy Simons is faculty editor.

    ----------Posted on June 19, 2015 by in Student Work

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