Seattle 911 Center Receives GPS Location Boost to Help Locate Mobile Callers

The Seattle Police 911 Center has added some new capabilities.

While cellular telephones have offered our society with convenience and portability, they have surrendered a key benefit that is ordinary to landline technology: precise location services when calling 911.

That is, up until now.

RapidSOS, enabled late last month at no additional cost through the existing Rave 911 Suite interface, provides pinpoint location services to our 911 Center. Previous iterations of cell phone GPS provided latitude and longitude, but locations were generalized and lacked verticality, something common in our urban city.

With RapidSOS, 911 call takers will receive the precise location, within a few feet, of most cellular phone callers requesting emergency services.

This upgrade applies to all Apple iOS and Android cell phone owners who have downloaded the latest software update. According to 2017 FCC data, calls from cell phones account for 70 percent of all incoming 911 calls.

This technology has already proven valuable.

A nine-year-old girl called 911 to report a man in her backyard while her parents were away. During the call, the cell phone disconnected due to low battery. Without the added benefit of precise location services, this call would have been geo-located blocks away. With the enhanced location services, we were able find the girl and make sure she was safe.

Android and iPhone users aren’t the only ones receiving an upgrade.

Uber passengers will now be able to contact 911 with tap of a button on their Uber app.

With Seattle’s bourgeoning tourism industry and business travelers visiting our city from near and far, not every Uber passenger is in a position to quickly relay critical information to our 911 Center during an emergency. Travelling in a car for hire is generally very safe. But in the rare circumstances when it isn’t, it can be a terrifying experience for a stranger in an unfamiliar city.

This new emergency button feature empowers our 911 Center to download key details, including Uber driver and rider information, vehicle description, license plate, current location, and direction of travel. When Uber’s in-app emergency button is used, this information is sent digitally, no words need to be spoken.

Once received, this information is relayed to our officers, ensuring a rapid police response and public safety services exactly where they are needed.

Lastly, and as a reminder, Seattle PD encourages all residents and visitors to create their free and secure Smart911 profile by either downloading the Smart911 app or by visiting the Seattle PD Smart 911 program page. The information provided can help save your life, is confidential, and only available during a 911 call.

For more information regarding either of these services or a demonstration regarding how this technology is integrated into the 911 Center, please contact Sergeant Sean Whitcomb of SPD Public Affairs at 206 684-5520.

For questions related to RapidSOS, please contact Bill Le Poidevin at wlepoidevin@rapidsos.com

For questions related to Uber, please contact Andrew Hasbun at andrew.hasbun@uber.com