Oak Ridge residents urged to say location when calling 911 on cell phone

Local News

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – More than half of every household in the U.S. has at least one wireless phone but doesn’t have a landline, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Every year, the percentage of homes without a landline increases, causing possible issues in emergency calls.

System was developed for landlines

According to Darryl Kerley, chief of the Oak Ridge Fire Department, the current 911 dispatch system was developed for landlines, not cell phones.

When someone calls 911 from a landline, dispatchers know exactly where the person is calling from.

However, when a person calls 911 from a cell phone, Kerley said that no one has control over which cell tower pings the caller’s phone.

The call could be routed to any of the four dispatch centers in Anderson County and depending on where the caller is in Oak Ridge, the call could be routed to another adjacent county.

911 cell calls can go to wrong jurisdictions

“For instance, if you’re on our southeast quadrant, then you may get Knox County. Knox County then has to transfer the call to Oak Ridge or to Anderson County, and all of those transfers can delay the response just a little bit,” Kerley said.

Kerley said it’s important for people to immediately state their location when calling 911.

He also said it’s important to state what your emergency is for a similar reason.

Anderson County provides the ambulance service for the county and there are ten fire departments in the county.

Precious time is wasted

Kerley said the ambulance and fire departments work with a priority system. If a person calls for an ambulance, but it’s not a life-threatening emergency, then a fire truck won’t go to the call.

“If Anderson County gets the call and it’s priority one, they’re going to call Oak Ridge and we’re going to send a fire truck, because it could take 10 to 20 minutes to get an ambulance on the scene and the fire truck is going to be there in three to six minutes,” Kerley said.

He said the 911 dispatchers can figure out the location of a caller, but if the caller doesn’t state their location immediately, time is wasted figuring out which agency should respond.

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