New technology helps Denver 911 pinpoint cellphone calls

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DENVER — In a business where every second counts, knowing exactly where you are can make a big difference.

In the city of Denver, roughly 95 percent of 911 calls coming into the dispatch center come from cellphones. Now, new technology is solving one of the biggest challenges dispatchers face: figuring out exactly where the caller is located.

“A lot of people don’t know where they are,” said Denver 911 dispatcher Masen Knight. He says he picks up calls for a lot of people who are visiting from out of town, or who are in an area with which they are unfamiliar.

“Worst case is somebody is needing help right now, shot, lost, kidnapped and we can’t find them,” said Denver 911 dispatcher Amber Cass.

Dispatchers say there are some instances — like cases of domestic violence — in which callers can’t share where they are, or some situations in which callers want help, but are timid about sharing a location.

“We get suicidal callers who are in a place of deep concern and they don’t want to give us their location,” Knight said.

Since May 2018, Denver has been partnering with Rapid SOS to pinpoint cellphone calls to an exact location, similar to how apps like Uber use the GPS in a phone.

Instead of relying on a general location based on the nearest cell tower, it gives them an enhanced location that is accurate down to 10-meter radius.

“Our job is to help people. And this gives us the opportunity to go above and beyond to really help,” Knight said. “This has helped me find people that are in a crisis.”

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