Collier County adds advanced GPS location tracking for 911

By using data footprints to track criminals, investigators can pinpoint threats down to a room in a building when critical when seconds count.

It’s all thanks to smartphones, an important tool to keep students safe.

So how does it work? If a student dials 911 for any reason – from an active shooter to a medical emergency – dispatch can zero in on their location. The level of accuracy can be so precise they will know if you’re outside the front gate, in a particular classroom, or which stairwell you’re in.

This 911 technology is not just available at schools but all across Collier County.

Your smartphone likely already knows where you are at all times. Even if you disable location services, most phones will still send location data if you call 911.

Collier County Sheriff’s Office Communications Director Bob Finney says, “You know if you want to find a Starbucks or you’re in a mall and all of sudden you get a coupon for Yankee Candle – and hey I just happen to be walking by Yankee Candle – that’s because of the location precision that they have on their device.”

Not all 911 call centers get that information. Finney says Collier County usually gets the location data from your cellphone carrier.

Traditionally, the carrier will send the location of the tower closest to you. The carrier might say you’re in one spot. When really, you’re in another, a half-mile away.

Now, Collier County sees exactly where your phone says you are. Rapid SOS is a third-party provider that works between mobile phone operating systems like Apple iOS and Google’s Android and 911 dispatch centers.

It uses a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi to get that precise location. Emerging technologies like Ultra-Wideband can even pinpoint you within a room down to the inch.

“Being a tourist community, a lot of people don’t know where they’re at. They may be on a golf course, they know they’re on this gold course, they know they’re at the 7th hole. But where is that?” Finney says.

Rapid SOS can show where you are on the green. And if someone can’t communicate where they’re at or the call drops, they can still find you to help.

Finney added that when you dial 9 on your phone, your phone starts determining your location – and pinpoints exactly where you when you finish dialing 911.

The key though, it only works if you have a smartphone and you keep your software up to date.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Derrick Shaw
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