Guthrie County E911 Office
200 North 5th Street
Guthrie Center, IA 50115
Ph: (641) 747-8320
Fax: (641) 747-8916
Hrs: 8:00 to 4:30 (M-F)
> Cellular Phones and E911
Cellular Phones and E911
Today it seems that most people have cellular phones and with these
being carried all over the landscape they are frequently used to
make emergency 911 calls. In the past, this presented a serious
problem with emergency personnel finding the caller who oftentimes
had no idea where they were.
Everyone has heard stories of car wrecks in a ravine with the cell
caller trying to get help and the emergency personnel driving all
over the area to locate them. Sometimes they arrived in time and
some times they didnít. As a result, there have been efforts to make
cell phone location more reliable.
Initially, this was done by having the signal ďtriangulateĒ off
several towers. This would give an approximate location, if one was
lucky. This method is still used today on phones that do not have
GPS technology built into them. So if you have an old cell phone,
you may be relying on this method. It is better than nothing but
can, at best, only locate to a general area. Oftentimes cell signals
can bounce off cell towers that are not the expected ones and thus a
bad location is given.
Today, the technology that is being developed is to use a GPS chip
that will give a precise location of the caller. Different public
safety answering points (PSAPs) are at different levels in having
the capability to recognize this information. When it works
properly, this will give a very precise location, theoretically
within a few hundred feet.
Guthrie County is fully developed with this technology. The Regional system has a new IP system costing approximately $1.3 million that makes this technology much better. When a cell
call comes in with a GPS unit in the phone, the map will come up on
the screen and a light will flash at the location of the caller.
Again, it should be understood that such technology isnít perfect
and errors do occur. It is very beneficial to also be able to
explain your location to the dispatcher answering the call.
It is understood that some phones may have the capability to have
the GPS chip turned off so it will NOT give the location. You may
want to check this to see that if you have such a phone the GPS is
active so it will send the signal. You might also want to contact
your cell phone company if you have an older phone to determine if
it is GPS ready. If it isnít, you might consider upgrading your cell
Again, using a regular wire telephone line is nearly always the best
way to get the best information on your location. To help fund 911 as land line phones are dropped, the Legislature (in 2013) increased the $0.65/month surcharge on cell phones and other devices that can access E911 to $1.00/month, which is the same as the land line surcharge.