Houston County, Georgia E-911 Able to Pinpoint Cell Phones

Houston County's E-911 Center can now pinpoint a cell phone caller's location within 100 meters, a feature that's expected to save lives.

Saving lives - if not the loss of lives - is what propelled the Federal Communications Commission to require cell phone companies to develop the technology to enable the pinpointing of the location of a cell phone caller.

Elaine Sexton, 911 program administrator for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said there have been cases across the country in which a person on a cell phone with 911 operators has died before his or her location could be determined.

Had the location been determined, it's believed the person would not have died, she said.

But while there is federal law requiring cell phone companies to develop the life-saving technology, there is no law requiring the creation of 911 systems, Sexton said.

"No law mandates that you have to have 911," Sexton said. "It's up to local governments whether to implement the service."

However, there is a law that local telephone companies must provide for anyone dialing 9-1-1 to reach a public service assignment point, which in Georgia is the sheriff's office in the absence of a 911 system, Sexton said.

In other words, a 911 call is routed to a number that goes to the sheriff's office in the absence of a 911 system, she said.

Also, it's up to local governments to ensure that cell phone companies are complying with the FCC ruling, Sexton said.

In Houston County, all cell phone providers are in compliance, and Harlowe said he's not about to let any slip through the cracks.

"We keep a close handle on who the carriers are," he said.