FYI ON 911 calls in San Juan County
The ability to call 911 for help in an emergency is one of the main reasons many of us, in San Juan County, own a wireless phone. HOWEVER NOT EVERYONE IS AWARE THAT 911 CALLS ARE FREE AND GO THRU EVEN IF YOU ARE OUT OF MINUTES OR OUT IN AN AREA WHERE YOU CANNOT GET A SIGNAL FROM YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER. Even if your phone has no service, attempting to dial 911 and leaving the phone turned on intermittently can transmit an electronic lifeline that can let rescuers know you're alive.
In the ideal scenario, calling 911 on a cell phone connects you to the nearest PSAP (public safety answering point). Before the 911 operator can ask, "What's your emergency?" if your phone has GPS a computer has already triangulated your latitude and longitude coordinates to within a few hundred feet using signal telemetry, from your phone's GPS chip. It even assigns your location a degree of error. If you're lost the 911 operator transmits that position to local police in your area and SAR teams so they know where to find you.
IF YOUR PHONE DOES NOT HAVE GPS YOU WILL NEED TO GIVE THE OPERATOR CLEAR DIRECTIONS TO YOUR LOCATION.
But what happens when your 911 call doesn't go through?
Well, the wireless provider may still have recorded the exact time you activated your phone to make a call. Unlike voice calls or text messages 911 electronic packets require very little energy to send or receive.
Calls to 911 transmit even when your phone indicates no reception. They bounce off towers that your phone doesn't have permission to use. 911 calls get through even in areas most where you cannot get a signal–like in remote and mountainous terrain. Different cell towers and nodes can share these signals. In almost all cases, the data trail is logged and saved on computers owned by wireless service providers. When someone has a medical emergency, is lost, stranded or has need for law enforcement, calling 911 from your cell phone anywhere in San Juan County can make it possible for law enforcement and/or medical service to find out that person's cell phone number, call the service provider's special emergency hotline, and access the data trail for a specific phone. In San Juan County it can provide enough information for law enforcement to identify who you are and contact your family to determine how to locate you.
THIS COULD SAFE YOUR LIFE!
If you live in a remote area of the county and have concerns as to whether a 911 call will go thru from your area you can test the 911 system. According to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office when you dial 911 you need to let the operator know that you live in an area that does not get regular cell service signals for your carrier and you are TESTING THE 911 SERVICE ON YOUR CELL. THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE ONCE TO TEST THE SERVICE. If you cannot get thru to the 911 operator you should let the Sheriff's office know so they can report areas that do not offer emergency 911 service in our county. The prompt delivery of wireless 911 calls to public safety services benefits the public by promoting safety of life and property. It is important to all the residents of San Juan County that we continue to improve on 911 access throughout the county.