Why 911 Isn't As Reliable As You'd Think

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
When you think of 911, you probably think of an ambulance zooming to your address moments after making the phone call. And if you grew up in America, it was likely the first phone number you ever learned (unless your parents were big Tommy Tutone fans).

But last night on John Oliver's weekly report on what you didn't even know you should be worried about, he explored one of the biggest problems facing 911 services — that the dispatcher you call might have a hard time actually finding you. And despite the proliferation of smartphones that know exactly where you are at all times, this problem has increased in recent years.

When everyone had to call emergency services from a landline, it was easy for 911 dispatchers to pinpoint exactly where the call was coming from. But with the rise of cell phones, an exact location isn't as easy for their largely outdated systems to pin down. And the show reports cell phone calls make up 70 to 80% of all calls coming in to 911. In fact, in a particularly astonishing clip, we can see one call center couldn't pinpoint a caller's location...and the call was being made from inside the call center itself. That is an epic fail of truly epic proportions.

But what about all those location-savvy apps, from Facebook to Uber? Unfortunately, their technology hasn't trickled down to 911. When will it? Better location technology will reportedly be available to 911 centers by 2021 (and even then, estimates put one out of five callers unable to be located). Obviously this is completely unacceptable — a potential fix is five years off, and still, 20% of callers may not get the help they need.

Hey startups, why don't you revolutionize this problem that needs to be solved?

You can check out the full video below.
Advertisement

More from Tech

Remember when dorm drama just meant your roommate eating the last of your Oreos without asking, or talking on the phone too loudly while you were trying ...
Chrissy Teigen, the model turned TV host turned cookbook author, has amassed Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat followings in the millions. The secret to ...
A Google search for "mooning" pulls up expected results: some news articles about protestors pulling down their pants, and the formal dictionary definition...
GENERATION STARTUP presents Women In Tech, an episode of an exclusive web series with footage left on the cutting room floor. The feature documentary ...
Pokémon Go was this year's biggest app sensation. Within 24 hours of its launch, the game became a mega hit and has since seen users walking billions of ...
For the second time this month, earthlings of the Western Hemisphere will experience a special event involving our moon. Earlier this month, we got our ...
If you want to look up information about your favorite celebrities, your first instinct is probably to google them. But depending on who you're curious ...
(Paid Content) Refinery29 is now on Versy, a messaging and content-sharing app made for busy people like us
Complaining today is much easier than it used to be. Lost luggage, bad service, extra charges, broken products — you used to have to put a letter in the ...
It's Google's 18th birthday which means it can finally see all the porn it serves up
Tonight marks the first of three presidential debates between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Because of the debate's close proximity to New...
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) developed a phone app that will assist you in recording and reporting police conduct. The app, Mobile Justice, ...
If you aren't registered to vote, don't panic. As a matter of fact, thanks to Snapchat, you can now do it in just one minute, reports Time. The social-...
You may start to notice your Uber drivers snapping a lot of selfies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're riding with an Instagram addict. Your ...