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If you are using a cell phone to report an emergency to the city of Twin Falls Police Department, dispatchers are now able to identify the location of your call without your having to tell them. This became available to cell phone users who subscribe to local providers because of the department’s transition to Phase II Wireless, referred to also as E 9-1-1.

Many Americans use cell phones specifically for the purpose of being able to make emergency phone calls when they are away from a landline. With E 9-1-1, emergency responders can provide assistance much more quickly, especially in situations in which callers have panicked or are disoriented or unable to speak.

FCC Rules
Under Federal Communication Commission rules, wireless carriers provided to the TFPD the latitude and longitude of callers, within about 55 to 340 yards. TFPD’s phase-in of E 9-1-1 began in 2008 as local carriers began providing that necessary information. In 2009, almost 40% of the incoming 9-1-1 calls were made by cell phone. Across the nation about half of incoming 9-1-1 calls are from wireless phones, and the number is rapidly increasing.

While wireless phones can be an important public safety tool, they also create unique challenges for public safety and emergency response personnel and for wireless service providers.

Emergency Tips
Here are a few tips for using these tools effectively during emergency situations:
  • Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away
  • Give the emergency operator your wireless phone number so that if the call gets disconnected, the operator can call you back
  • If your wireless phone is not “initialized” (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you
  • Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 9-1-1 when one button, such as the “9” key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 9-1-1 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers
  • If your wireless phone came pre-programmed with the auto-dial 9-1-1 feature already turned on, turn off this feature. Check your user manual to find out how
  • Lock your keypad when you’re not using your wireless phone. This action also prevents accidental calls to 9-1-1
  • Consider creating a contact in your wireless phone’s memory with the name “ICE” (in Case of Emergency) listing the phone numbers of people you want to be notified if there is an emergency.

The TFPD would like to remind caller using cell phones to use 311 for non-emergency calls if they are inside the city limits. If they are outside the city limits when they make a non-emergency call, they should use 735-HELP (4357).