Cell Phone Mapping Capabilities

The lack of new technology may to be blame for the 2003 death of a Waller County woman. The woman used a cell phone to report she had been shot. It took deputies more than 30 minutes to find her. Waller is among the majority of Texas counties that don't have upgraded 911 services for cell phone tracking.

Grimes County dispatchers work with what they have. Current resources lack new cell phone mapping capabilities, making it difficult to find out a caller's location.

"It's very limited right now, to be honest with you," Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said. "Cell phone towers are limited and some of the calls come with unavailable numbers."

Without advanced technology to track emergency calls, if you need help in the middle of nowhere and you don't know where you are, it could take authorities hours to find you.

The number of emergency cell phone calls into 911 centers have gone up in the past few years as people have abandoned their home phones in favor of cell phones.

"Statistically I think we get 75,000 911 calls a year. Probably 50 percent of those are cell phone calls," Brazos County Emergency Communications District Executive Director Elizabeth Godwin said.

At Brazos County 911 they're facing the problem head-on. They now have a computer program that plots the longitude and latitude of a caller's location on a map. And it's already been proved successful. A woman recently called 911 from her cell phone and didn't know her location. Rescue crews were able to track here down using her coordinates.

"She had no idea where she was and she needed an ambulance. There was no way for her to gather information to her location," Godwin said.

Grimes County dispatchers have to rely on questions and creativity to find a caller's location. Both are time consuming tasks, but Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell thinks things will change soon.

"The technology and the capabilities will be here eventually, and I know it because there is funding out there," Sowell said.

Until then, Grimes County dispatchers will continue doing the work they've been trained to do.

If you do have to call 911 from your cell phone, dispatchers urge you to stay on the line until the dispatcher says it's ok to get off. Also try to remember as many landmarks as possible when you’re traveling in an unfamiliar area.


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