FCC Proposal to Help Responders Locate 911 Callers in Multi-Story Buildings

The commission proposed a vertical location accuracy metric of plus or minus 3 meters relative to the handset for 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls, tentatively concluding that location accuracy metric—within 3 meters above or below the phone—would be sufficiently accurate to identify the caller's floor level in most cases and would be technically feasible under the timeframes established in the Enhanced 911 rules.

The Federal Communications Commission on March 15 adopted a proposal intended to help first responders more accurately locate people who make wireless 911 calls from multi-story buildings. The proposal would assist 911 call centers in identifying the floor level where the 911 call occurred, which can reduce emergency response times and save lives, according to the agency.

The proposal is part of the commission's ongoing effort to improve its Enhanced 911 location accuracy rules, which require wireless providers to automatically transmit to 911 call centers information on the location of wireless 911 callers. The rules require wireless providers to meet what FCC describes a an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks in accordance with a timetable, including providing the caller's "dispatchable location" (such as the street address and apartment number) or vertical location on a phased-in basis beginning in April 2021.

The commission had deferred a decision on a specific vertical location accuracy metric until it received additional testing data, which FCC said has now occurred.

The commission proposed a vertical (or "z-axis") location accuracy metric of plus or minus 3 meters relative to the handset for 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls, with the commission tentatively concluding that location accuracy metric—within 3 meters above or below the phone—would be sufficiently accurate to identify the caller's floor level in most cases and would be technically feasible under the timeframes established in the Enhanced 911 rules.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr approved the measure; Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissented; and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks approved in part and concurred in part.

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