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Do Police and 911 dispatchers have GPS?


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I would venture to say that most 911 centers have access to programs that can make use of coordinates. This came up for me last summer when my wife and I found a stump and root fire along a trail on a mountain. When I initially called 911 and offered coordinates I was told they did not need them. When I was contacted a second time by a different agency they wanted the coordinates and used them for the response. The dispatcher was shocked that the other agency had turned me down when offering them. I would suggest offering coordinates whenever you are calling 911 for any location that is not readily accessible from street directions. Regardless of the type of emergency you are reporting, having coordinates for responding could save the time in responding that could save a life.

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It all depends on what kind of equipment the 911 center has. If I take a call from a person on a cell phone that is not from the area and I can not get that cell phone to come up on my map, then yes, I would gladly take the coordinates.

 

We have what is called phase 2 with the cell phones. To us that means when a 911 call comes in, we get the phone number and a location on the map. Most of the time the location is pretty good as far as being accurate. It also depends on the cell phone and provider. The older cell phones are usually non-compliant and will never show a location on the map.

 

One time we received 59 cell phone calls from some kids one morning. We were able to track them each time the call came in and it didn't take us long to figure out that they were on a school bus and on their way to school. Needless to say, when they got to school, there was a state trooper and an angry principle waiting for them :anitongue:

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One time we received 59 cell phone calls from some kids one morning. We were able to track them each time the call came in and it didn't take us long to figure out that they were on a school bus and on their way to school. Needless to say, when they got to school, there was a state trooper and an angry principle waiting for them <_<

 

Good story. :laughing: I love it when law enforcement is one step ahead of pranksters like that.

 

I can't say about 911 centers, but in our our area, I know the Sheriff's Dept. search and rescue can make use of the coordinates--and has for a number of operations. I would suspect that in a situation where there isn't a street address readily available, even in cases where the dispatch center can't directly make use of the coordinates, many responding agencies could. I would always offer them if I have them.

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When I as a consumer can go out and buy a TomTom or Nuvi for around $200 or less, I think there should be no excuse for emergency and law enforcment to not have dashboard GPS's in their vehicles, even if they rarely felt the need to use them. If it saved one life, it would be worth it.

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I donated my old GPS (Magellan300)to our local volunteer FD for 2 reasons, when calling in a life flight helicopter lat & lon make landing easier and safer. Also the forest service can get closer to a wild fire on the ground with the dozer with lat & lon as opposed to using SRT maps. GPS is a the way to go when time counts, as opposed to trying to give verbal directions in a rural area (which the dept. covers). We cover roughly 100 sq. miles so the GPS is a good thing to have, in my opinion.

 

When I decide to upgrade from my 210 to something better, I'll donate it to another department. IF I could afford to do it, I'd buy a unit for each dept in the county! That's how strongly I feel about their usefulness in fire and rescue situations.

 

I also feel that ALL emergency personnel , fire, sheriff, ambulance, should have one in their vehicle. For the few dollars that a GPS costs, if a life is saved it's a good investment.

 

I'll hush now.....

Edited by goodwrench00
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If you have coordinates, offer them to dispatch. If a helicopter or plane were to be dispatched, I'd make them take the coords and pass them along to the pilots who are more likely to know how to use them.

 

In my neck of the woods, when hiking near the US-Mexico border, I've twice taken coord readings of illegal migrant's sleeping "quarters" and passed them on to the Border Patrol. I've learned they use the UTM format.

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I don't know if our local rescue folks have GPS stuff or not, but one thing I like to do is log remote places I hunt , fish or hike to on Google Earth. These are marked as pinpoints. This is especially for when I'm out in the sticks solo.

 

I'll tell my family the general area I'll be tramping that day so if I get hurt or whatever and don't come home they could Google Earth those pinpoints and relay the coords to emergency rescue. Cell phones don't work in most the areas I go.

 

Using these coords would drastically scale down the manpower, time and expense of rescue efforts. That is as long as you stay on the scheduled flight path.

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I have heard rumors here in Nebraska that some if not most rural (small town) public safety organizations use gps or have the ability to get the data, of course if the vehicles or the members don't have a gpsr, it wouldn't do much good, we would be back to the dispatchers giving the directions to the responders. I will look into this further and report back. It just sounds like a good idea to me!

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I work for a depatment in Northwest Wisconsin. We have several officers that do carry their own GPS units, but they are not issued to them by our department.

 

To be honest at least where I work, coordinates would not really help. We have a 30 x 30 mile county and we have about 1800 miles of roads. We are pretty rural for the most part. There is access to almost every point in the county from a road at a maximum of 2-2.5 miles. About the only time we like to have coordinates is for a rescue helicopter to land. As someone else mentioned above we also have GIS mapping and it includes satellite imaging. For the most part we can figure pretty close where a person is calling even if they can just describe where they entered the backwoods area and follow their direction for a rough idea of location.

If that does not work and we have coordinates, our mapping program displays the coordinates that our mouse pointer is at. So we could use that to come up with a describable location for them if needed to direct responders. It would be rather hit and miss, but would at least get them close. Look at the photo I included in the lower left corner and you can see the data for lon and lat.

 

map22c9.JPG

 

Or imagery that we have is also pretty good. I can see what is in yards of houses and whatnot which is pretty nice.

Some trails show up, and I can even pick out my 4x8 ground stand for deer hunting in the photo's. Of course this does not mean that we can see everything, and its not real time, but it's better than what we had 5 years ago, which is nothing.

 

My professional advice is offer the lat & long if you have it, but really most dispatch and patrol people know their area pretty well and probably won't need them very often.

 

To whoever said that they would make the person take the coordinates, you may need a lesson in manners. We all know how to do our jobs, and most times more information is better, but you also need to factor in that the people that are working a specific are of land have years of experience and more than likely more resources to help them out than you may know about. So, like I said offer the coordinates, but if dispatch does not need them they aren't even going to write them down

 

Edit: Of course this will be totally different in a state or ares that does not have as many roads or when a county is very large and has alot of remote areas that officers may never get to in 20 years of patrol. But I still say offer the coordinates and if they want/need them they will take them.

Edited by KOOLAID105
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To give my own experience with State Park Police (in multiple states) - one time me finding a runaway dog and needing a lift with the dog back (since I was 6+ miles from parking and the dog to weak to walk) and twice me calling in ATVs.

If I am in the back woods the quickest way to report where I am is coordinates. Everything else takes a long time - and in two of the instances the police didn't seem to know the names of prominent features on their park (lakes, trail crossings, published names of mountain peaks) so I took me over 10 minutes to get them to figure out where I am. This should be the bread and butter of park police but it certainly doesn't seem like that to me....

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Being knee deep in techno stuff for a large department, I would say that not all departments have GPS abilities nor should we have comfort in the fact that they currently do. However, if a department doesn't embrace GPS stuff like we do, then they are not wise at all. In today's age with cars having built in GPS systems, Public Safety needs to get on the Techno band wagon and come along for the ride!

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Like mentioned above by somebody, if a person calls from a phase 2 cell phone our 911 center is provided with the callers coords. This will not work on most of your older cell phones. As for the police having GPS, that would depend on that department. Some have GPS built into their computers in their cars. Unless, your like my local department that still doesn't have in car computers you have to rely on hand helds. My local department does have numerous cachers within the dept. but most of them don't take a GPSr with them to work. As for the accuracy of the coords provided by cell phone carries. I am well aware of an instance where a suspect ran from police in a wooded area and lost his shoe during the chase. On this night it was in the 20's and the ground was still snow covered. The police didn't bother to chase him into the woods. About 45 mins. later he called 911 wanting to turn himself in because he was cold and his foot was getting frost bite. The problem was he didn't know where he was. 911 provided the coords to police and one of them did have a GPS and it took them right to him.

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Like mentioned above by somebody, if a person calls from a phase 2 cell phone our 911 center is provided with the callers coords. This will not work on most of your older cell phones. As for the police having GPS, that would depend on that department. Some have GPS built into their computers in their cars. Unless, your like my local department that still doesn't have in car computers you have to rely on hand helds. My local department does have numerous cachers within the dept. but most of them don't take a GPSr with them to work. As for the accuracy of the coords provided by cell phone carries. I am well aware of an instance where a suspect ran from police in a wooded area and lost his shoe during the chase. On this night it was in the 20's and the ground was still snow covered. The police didn't bother to chase him into the woods. About 45 mins. later he called 911 wanting to turn himself in because he was cold and his foot was getting frost bite. The problem was he didn't know where he was. 911 provided the coords to police and one of them did have a GPS and it took them right to him.

Another thing, I have a Magellan Crossover. If you are in veh. nav. mode if you press the direction indicator it takes you to the compass screen. From that screen it not only tells you what street your on, it also provides the two closest cross streets and how far you are from them. It even on occasion tells you the municipality you're in, although I found this to be inaccurate at times.

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I broke my leg while geocaching out in the Rhode Island woods. Seemed like it took forever for the cop on duty and the EMTs to find me. As I later learned, my cell phone with GPS locates you by the closest tower which was in Massachusetts. The police, fire and rescue departments in that particular area don't have GPS units so giving them coordinates was useless.

 

An LEO friend in Texas tells me they don't have GPS units in his department. In fact, while visiting there, a cacher followed my finds two days later and discovered a body at one cache site. OnStar knew where he was, the cops didn't.

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All automated CAD systems are not equal. (Computer Aided Dispatch) The system I have worked with will take UTM, and three different versions of Lat/Long. The system used by a sister agency does not have that capability. The upside of the program is that it will automatically map a location when the dispatcher enters the data. The downside is that the location maybe outside of the map boundaries in the CAD. The system will also take Township, Range, and Section, along with local geographic names.

 

A number of times I have gone to my personnel laptop to plot a location that is outside of the map in the CAD so it can be passed to the responsible agency.

 

Agencies up grade their CAD continually so what is true today maybe incorrect tomorrow.

 

Be prepared to give the dispatcher as much detailed information as possible. I realize that most dispatchers are into street address, milepost makers along highways, and local names. But if you are out in the woods most likely you will not have a street address.

 

Your Garmin gps unit loaded with Topo software provides you with a number of options. Not only does it provide you with Lat/Long but also with geographic names. Lets say you have an emergency at N39 01.612 W120 10.576, but if you go to the FIND button on your unit, and select Geographic Points you will get additional information. Lily Pond is 0.09 miles from your location at 55° true north. You are located 1.66 miles from Camp Wasiu, which is 101° from your location. Information that you parked your vehicle at Sugar Pine Point State Park would be helpful.

 

If you are on the freeway the EXIT icon can give your compass direct from an exit. This option gives you the EXIT number and miles to it. When you are on the freeway this information to a Highway Patrol dispatcher will be more valuable then the Lat/Long.

 

Some of your best emergency dispatchers are not into gps, but give them good information and they will get you assistance. In the California wildlands I would give information in the hddd°mm.mmm’ Lat/Long format because aircraft are dispatched in Lat/Long. Give them poor information and help may have a difficult time finding you.

 

When I make a trip into the woods I like to leave a trip plan on the dinning room table. The plan will include the County I will be in, the license number of my vehicle, and some waypoint information that I have created on Map Source Topo, or my USGS State Series. If I know the Forest Service or BLM road numbers I will include them.

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