Charleston County now able to pinpoint location of 9-1-1 callers using mobile phones

Reality Check

New technology is being used in Charleston County to help emergency responders find your location as easily and accurately as a ridesharing service.

It’s called Rapid SOS and it helps solve one of the biggest problems for emergency dispatchers since the advent of mobile phones. Finding a caller who doesn’t know where they are, or can’t communicate with the call-taker.

Until now, dispatchers had to triangulate cell towers to give first responders an idea of where the caller may be. That takes precious time when seconds count. 

With about 80% of calls coming from mobile phones being able to pinpoint a location was long overdue.

Rapid SOS does that.

“We’re using pretty much the same technology that they use for ridesharing companies, food deliveries, or mapping your location,” said Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center Director Jim Lake.

In September Charleston County became the first 911 center in the state to start using the service that Apple and Google started providing with the update of their operating systems (iOS 12, Android 4+).

They provide the location data of a 911 call to a clearinghouse, and that clearinghouse provides it to the 911 center instantly.

Unlike the location services for many apps this is not a service for which you can “opt out”. Once you update your operating system it is automatic.

“What Apple and Google have said and it’s in the agreements,” said Lake. “If you dial 9-1-1 we know you’re having an emergency and we know you want public safety to know where you are so we’re going to take that information off your phone and provide it to 9-1-1.”

If you are worried about privacy, Lake says they only have access to your phone’s location if you dial 9-1-1.

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