911 GPS upgrades

Project aims to increase safety for cell phone users

BY MARCELLE HANEMANN

THE DAILY NEWS

FRANKLINTON Now people who need to make 911 emergency calls from their cell phones in Washington Parish will be have a better chance of being located quickly by area dispatchers.

The Washington Parish Communications District has announced the start up of its wireless telephone location and digital map system. The system is the first part of a two-phase project designed to increase safety throughout the parish.

"This new system will assist the police dispatchers in locating persons using cell phones who need emergency assistance," said Jim Coleman, parish communications district chairman. "Cell phone services provided by ATT, Centennial, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint, or Verizon are all covered under this new system."

Over the next few months, the district will test the accuracy of the call location data provided by the wireless carriers. And if it does not meet FCC regulations, the carriers will be required to make improvements to their equipment.

"We are hopeful that the location accuracy will be better than the 300 meters mandated by the federal government," said Coleman.

Specially trained technicians will conduct the tests. And cell phone users are urged not to try to test the new system themselves by calling 911 unnecessarily.

The parish recently issued four permits for new tower sites, said Coleman. And as cellular companies improve their cell phone coverage, the new system will become even more useful for locating emergencies, he said.

The project, which is due to be completed early next year with the inclusion of location data for land-based telephone calls, is being partially funded by a grant from the Public Safety Foundation of America.

For more info on 911 in Washington Parish, Internet users may access http://www.wpcde-911.com.