You’ve seen it in the movies more times than you can count: the onscreen protagonist desperately punching in 9-1-1 on a cell phone, hurriedly and anxiously trying to tell the dispatcher their location while there’s still time.
But then the bad guy grabs the phone or knocks it to the ground before the victim can rattle off their address, so the dispatcher has no idea where the call is coming from. Unlike calls from landlines, cell phone calls can’t really be tracked as quickly or as accurately.
Perhaps something similar has happened to you or someone you know in real life. Scary stuff.
Fortunately, new technology has arrived for Keller residents to help alleviate this type of situation. FCC studies estimate the new one-touch SirenGPS emergency mobile phone app could save more than 10,000 lives annually in the U.S. First responders call it “Uber for 911.”
“The reality is Uber could find you faster and easier than traditional 911 because they use an app-based product with GPS technology,” says Warren Dudley, manager for NETCOM 9-1-1, the regional 911 dispatch for Keller and nearby cities. “That’s a huge problem when more than 80 percent of our calls are now coming from cell phones. The beauty of SirenGPS is that it will run parallel to our traditional capabilities and improve our speed, accuracy and efficiency. It is going to revolutionize our ability to take care of our residents.”
In short, with the SirenGPS app, emergency help is just one button-push away. The app is a free download to an Apple or Android smart phone. All one has to do is search for SirenGPS or SirenGPS Mobile in Google Play or iTunes, and then register and download the app in just a couple of minutes.
The app creates a panic button of sorts for calling 911 and sharing your location with first responders who subscribe to the SirenGPS service. Keller, with its NETCOM partners Colleyville, Southlake and Westlake, is one of the first cities in the country to implement this cutting edge technology.
In addition to sharing a caller’s location, SirenGPS gives first responders profile information, which is important because it can provide such potentially crucial facts as a photo of the caller, emergency contacts, medical history and a list of the medicines. (Officials with SirenGPS guarantee that they won’t do anything with the personal information other than share it with first responders when needed.)
SirenGPS is useful for more than just dealing with an attacker. It’s also good for people who need emergency assistance but don’t know how to pinpoint exactly where they are. For example, if the caller is injured while cycling or in a car crash, a simple button press will send first responders, even if the caller doesn’t know the exact location.
The service, which has a silent notification system, could also be helpful for kidnapping victims, victims of domestic abuse and others unable or too scared to articulate the reason for the call.
“There are huge implications for when someone can’t speak to us either because doing so would put them in danger or because of the nature of their medical emergency—language barriers, too shaken up to speak, you name it,” Dudley says. “We’ll know where the callers are and what they need with the push of a button.”
In addition to generating a trackable 911 call, SirenGPS uses the internet to deliver a “911 call event” in case of bad cell service.
“Because the two are sent through parallel delivery systems, the ‘call event’ can reach dispatch even when cell service has been knocked out,” says Rachel Reynolds, Keller’s public information officer.
One concern over the new technology is the additional expenses such a program could potentially incur for the city and, by extension, taxpayers. According to city officials, it’s not an issue.
“The contract we secured with Siren-GPS is actually less expensive than the mass notification vendor we’ve been using,” Reynolds says. “So we now have a more multi-faceted product that we can use every day, at a savings to the city.”
The Siren-GPS works virtually anywhere in the world, automatically updating the numbers for emergency services as one travels from one country to another. Regardless of where they are, pressing the SirenGPS button on a phone’s screen will contact emergency services as though the user had dialed 911 using the keypad.
However, enhanced location and profile information are only shared with first responder communities that are equipped with SirenGPS services, so users will need to be prepared to explain their location if the community they’re in has yet to be equipped with the technology. As more and more cities adopt the program, this will become less of a problem.
For more information about SirenGPS, call 800-570-3807 or visit sirengps.com.
How to get registered:
1. Download the SirenGPS app on your smartphone.
2. Create an account.
3. Keller residents: Join the “City of Keller” Community, which provides local emergency alerts.
4. Complete your profile to provide health information and emergency contacts to dispatchers.
5. When you need help, call 911 using the SirenGPS app.