What is E911 (Enhanced 911)? The Ultimate Guide

Picture a scenario in which you have an emergency and need the police, medics, or firefighters to get to you speedily, but you are not familiar with the environment and so are unable to provide your address, or you are too weak or disoriented to be coherent. This is where the new E911 system helps make sure you are found by responders.

E911 (Enhanced 911) is a system that automatically provides the caller’s location to 911 dispatchers when dialing 911 from a cellphone in the United States. E911 uses GPS or network-based methods to determine the caller’s location, and it requires cellphones and carriers to comply with certain standards and regulations.

Enhanced 911 is intended to improve the effectiveness and reliability of emergency services by reducing the response time and saving lives.

E911 Enhanced 911 emergency system

How E911 works

Here are the main steps involved in an e911 call:

When you dial 911 from your cellphone, your call is received by a cell tower and routed to a mobile switching center (MSC). The MSC assigns a unique identifier to your call, known as a pseudo ANI, and sends it to a special router, known as a selective router or a 911 tandem.

The selective router looks up your pseudo ANI in a database, known as ALI (Automatic Location Identification), to find your location information. The location information can be based on GPS, which uses satellites to pinpoint your coordinates, or network-based, which uses cell tower triangulation, signal strength, or other methods to estimate your location.

The selective router then uses another database, known as MSAG (Master Street Address Guide), to match your location information with the appropriate PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), which is a call center operated by the local government. The selective router connects your call to the PSAP and sends your pseudo ANI and location information along with it.

The PSAP receives your call and displays your pseudo ANI and location information on a computer screen. The PSAP also queries the ALI database again to get the most updated location information for your call. The PSAP operator answers your call and asks you to confirm your location and the nature of your emergency. The PSAP operator then dispatches the appropriate emergency responders to your location.

How accurate is E911?

The accuracy of Enhanced 911 depends on several factors, such as the type of technology used, the availability of signals, the quality of data, and the implementation of the system by the carriers and the public safety answering points (PSAPs). According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the accuracy standards for E911 are generally to within 50 to 300 meters, depending on the type of technology used.

However, these standards may vary by location, and some areas may have more precise or less precise location information than others. The FCC is working to improve the accuracy of Enhanced 911, especially for vertical location or z-axis, which can help identify the floor level for wireless 911 calls made from multi-story buildings. The FCC also encourages the use of supplemental location technologies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and barometric sensors, to enhance the accuracy of E911.

Therefore, Enhanced 911 is not always 100% accurate, but it is constantly improving and evolving to provide better location information for wireless 911 callers.

No, Enhanced 911 cannot track you without your consent or knowledge. E911 is a system that automatically provides your location to 911 dispatchers when you dial 911 from a cellphone in the United States. E911 only works when you make a 911 call, and it does not track your location at any other time. E911 also requires your cellphone and carrier to comply with certain standards and regulations, and it respects your privacy and security.

Therefore, you do not need to worry about Enhanced 911 tracking you without your consent or knowledge. E911 is a service that is designed to help you in case of an emergency, not to spy on you.

Can you disable E911 on your phone?

No, you cannot disable Enhanced 911 on your phone. It is a system that automatically provides your location to 911 dispatchers when you dial 911 from a cellphone in the United States. Enhanced 911 is required by federal law, and it is designed to help you in case of an emergency.

E911 supported phones

Enhanced 911 works on phones that have built-in GPS or can access the internet to send location data. This easily covers most modern smartphones.

What to do to activate E921 on your phone

It depends on your phone service provider and device manufacturer. Some phones may have Enhanced 911 enabled by default, while others may require you to register your address or update your settings. You can check with your phone service provider or device manufacturer to see if your phone supports the service and how to activate it.

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