When you call 911 from a land phone, even if you don’t know where you are, the 911 system is able to locate you and send help as needed. Your landline telephone is connected to the lines on the poles which makes a computer in the dispatch center show the number and address of the phone you're using.
Cell Phones Don't Work the Same
When you make a 911 call on a cell phone, you are sending signals through the air. The tower that picks up your phone's signal may or may not be near. Unless you are able to tell the 911 dispatcher where you are at, it may be very hard for them to locate you.
If you happen to connect to a 911 call center that is not local, they may not be able to help you as quickly as they will need to contact the 911 service providers in your area, thereby slowing the dispatching of help to the caller.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required that all wireless carriers be able to pinpoint your location for the 911 dispatchers, but the rule is coming in phases and there are plenty of exceptions.
When you call 911 from a cell phone, the call often lands in a regional center. A call-taker in a far-away city or county may answer your call. To get help to you, there are two pieces of information the call-taker needs to know immediately :
- Tell the call-taker which city you're calling from first. They can forward your call to the right center if need be.
- Tell the call-taker what type of emergency you have. This will let them be able to inform the other centers of the nature of such an emergency. Giving priority to serious situations first.
Dispatch centers may vary from one center to another, with the right information, the call-taker will transfer you to the right center.