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SPECIAL REPORT: Can Uber STILL find you faster than a 911 dispatcher?

WAUKESHA (CBS 58) – Last year, CBS 58 asked who can find you faster Uber or a 911 dispatcher?

It was definitely Uber. But now, some Wisconsin 911 dispatch centers are using RapidSOS.

RapidSOS receives location data from smartphones to pinpoint a call’s x and y coordinates and sends real-time location information to the dispatcher.

Waukesha County Communications was the first in the state to utilize the new technology.

“It’s providing handset location accuracy services similar to what you’d see in Uber, Lyft, Google Maps and Safari maps,” Gary Bell, Director of Emergency Preparedness said.

Experts said this is a significant improvement over current utility-provided data. When your call comes into an emergency dispatch they identify where you are based off the cell tower your cellphone hits. From there it can take an additional 20 to 30 seconds for the dispatcher to receive your coordinates from your cellphone company.

“With our old technology sometimes we could be several hundred meters off but with this new technology it’s almost spot on,” said Bonn Douglas, Telecommunicator.

According to RapidSOS, Douglas, Dane and Milwaukee Counties have also followed suit.

“There's no additional app you have to download. iOS 12 as well as the Android are current platforms are currently providing supplemental location information," Bell said. 

But as CBS 58 found out, RapidSOs doesn’t work with all carriers.

We called using five different carriers. When we called using AT&T and Verizon it pinpointed us to the building we were at right away. T-Mobile pinged us to a cell tower, then the cell company gave dispatchers the RapidSOS information.

The other carriers provided the utility-provided data.

RapidSOS provides location as supplemental data, and whenever it is not available centers are always able to fall back on the carrier location they already receive.

It’s a temporary solution until Wisconsin can figure out how they are going to update it’s 911 technology through Next Generation 911 statewide.

Next Generation 911 will not only find you quicker but also accept things like videos, pictures and text messages from 911 callers.

In July, the state allocated $6.7 million for the planning and developing for the new technology. The goal is to have the technology across the state in the next three to five years. 

“The information is available to us now so we are not in a position to wait. Yes, we want to follow the state in developing Next Generation 911 that will sustain us but in the interim we can help save time and lives until that is provided for us,” Gary Bell said.

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