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FCC wants to help identify the floor a 911 call is coming from

Wireless providers would have to provide vertical location by April 2021.
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releon8211 via Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission issued a new proposal today designed to help first responders better locate 911 callers. The proposed rules would require cellular providers to provide more detailed locations of callers, including a vertical location that would make it possible to find out what floor of a multi-story building a caller is on. If approved, the requirements would go into effect starting in April 2021.

Wireless service providers are already required to provide 911 call centers with a "dispatchable location" such as a street address or apartment number. With the new rules, those companies would also have to provide location information on the z-axis, showing the verticality of a caller. Accuracy will have to be plus or minus three meters relative to the caller for first responders to determine what floor they will need to get to. The additional location metric should help when a 911 call comes from a person in an apartment, hotel or other multi-level structures.

The proposal marks the latest effort by the FCC to modernize emergency response systems. In the last decade, the agency has approved a dedicated LTE network accessible to first responders throughout the US, which is operated by AT&T and was finally adopted by all 50 states in 2017. The FCC has also approved text-to-911 services and has explored allowing multimedia and streaming communications with emergency responders.

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