The Macomb County Dispatch Center recently upgraded its current technology with RapidSOS, a system that gives emergency responders improved ability in pinpointing the location of a wireless device caller.

The Macomb County Dispatch Center recently upgraded its current technology with RapidSOS, a system that gives emergency responders improved ability in pinpointing the location of a wireless device caller.

File photo by Erin Sanchez


Macomb County connects with RapidSOS

Technological upgrades to help those in an emergency

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published January 18, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — Late last year, a Macomb County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher took a 911 call from an individual suffering a seizure.

Sheriff Anthony Wickersham explained that, when asked, the caller relayed the correct street number but the incorrect street name, sending emergency responders to the wrong house.

“When EMS arrived at the address given by the caller, there was no patient,” Wickersham said. “Dispatch then used RapidSOS, which gave a location one street south with the same digits. Dispatch relayed this information to EMS, who were able to locate the patient at the location. This tool potentially saved minutes of dispatch attempting to call the caller back, risking them not answering, and trying to get an updated location.”

RapidSOS is a fairly new technological enhancement that gives emergency dispatchers the ability to pinpoint the location of any wireless device caller within a 3-meter radius, even if the caller is in motion or the phone is turned off after the call is made.

Traditionally, location information from 911 calls comes from the wireless device connecting to three separate cell towers, known as triangulation. Triangulation provides dispatch with a location; however, that location could be as far as 1,000 meters away from the actual caller.

RapidSOS partners with Apple, Google and Smart911 to deliver better location data for wireless calls received from iPhones with iOS 12, as well as Android phones version 4.0 and up.

When an Apple or Google customer makes a 911 call, the traditional location information is transmitted to the dispatch center. Simultaneously, enhanced location data is transmitted to the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, which is a kind of technology that allows public safety answering points to track down the location of a smartphone after a 911 call is made. Recent and historical location information is displayed on the dispatch center map, allowing a 911 dispatcher to track the device.

This information on a wireless device may only be obtained if that device has called 911. Once the 911 call is disconnected, the location remains available to the dispatch center for 15 minutes.

Wickersham said such capabilities are incredibly useful in situations where a victim is attempting to call for help and a suspect intervenes.

“The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office continues to seek tools that will improve our abilities and response times,” Wickersham said. “RapidSOS is one of those tools. In the event of a life-threatening situation, every second counts.”

The technology isn’t costing the Sheriff’s Office any money, as it is interfaced with Smart911, which is currently state-funded through 2020.

“Macomb County Sheriff’s Office dispatch is leading the way in 911 technology to improve emergency response,” said RapidSOS CEO, Michael Martin, who co-founded the New York-based company in 2012 after experiencing two emergency situations of his own. “We are thrilled to provide Macomb County Sheriff’s Office call-takers and dispatchers with the information they need to get citizens help quickly in an emergency, saving lives and property.”

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