FRISCO – Summit County emergency dispatchers say it sometimes takes longer to get help to people who rely on GPS-equipped smartphones because they don’t know exactly where they are.
The Summit Daily News reported Sunday that some people who call 911 can’t give their precise location even in towns or on major highways.
“In a lot of cases, people really don’t have any idea where they are,” said Bill Pessemier, director of communications for the county.
“If we don’t have that address, it can cause a delay in time, maybe a minute or two or three,” he said.
GPS is not as accurate as many people think, he said. GPS-enabled phones can find a caller’s location to within about 90 to 110 yards, he said.
“That’s good for the backcountry, but in the town, with condos and businesses, it’s not as helpful,” said Lisa Hans, a supervisor with the county communications department.
Hans said it’s particularly hard to pinpoint the location of someone who calls 911 from Interstate 70 in Summit County. Callers can sometimes say only that they’re west of Denver or tell dispatchers where they’re headed, she said.
Callers might say something such as, “‘Yeah, we just left Denver; we’re on our way to California,’” Hans said.
“We try to narrow it down. Eastbound or westbound? Did you come through a tunnel? Did you pass any towns? We’re going through this process of elimination, and that takes time,” she said.
Hans and Pessemier are asking local governments, the lodging industry and ski resorts to cooperate on an education campaign to encourage visitors to be aware of their location in more detail.
Pessemier said he doesn’t yet have specifics or cost estimates for the plan but wants to get discussions started.
One idea is to improve address signage in populated areas.
“If you walk up and down Main Street in Breckenridge or in Frisco, you’d be hard-pressed to find addresses,” he said.
Pessemier said the campaign could take at least six months to launch. He hopes to have something in place for summer.