Cell phone technology can't give location in emergency

11:35 PM, Mar 10, 2014   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- The last minutes of Jennifer Wolfe's life were terrifying. 

She called 911 as her car sank into the water of a Pinellas Park canal early Monday morning, but for some reason the connection was lost, so operators couldn't pinpoint her location.

Then, a similar crash occurred in Clearwater Monday night. Dozens watched as a woman plunged her car into the intercoastal. 

10 News told people if they were lost in the water and called 911 on their cell phone, operators wouldn't be able to find them either.

SEE ALSO: How to survive if your car lands in water

"Why not? With all our technology, you'd think there would be some kind of tracking device on your phone, or GPS on your phone," said Lisa Schultz.

"In today's world, they should be able to find anybody," said Bill Agnew.

But the truth is, 911 can't pinpoint the exact location of a mobile signal. 10 News contacted Pinellas 911 and spoke with Director Chuck Freeman. 

According to Director Freeman, it's not emergency dispatch that's missing the technology, it's the wireless carriers.

For example, let's say you go hiking in the woods and you injure yourself. You don't know where you are, and you call 911. 

The closest operators can get to pinpointing your location is about a mile. That's the distance between Albert Whitted Airport and the Vinoy Hotel- a pretty big stretch of land when every second counts.

"I had no idea. Maybe we can change that," said Marion Crane about the lack of technology.

In 2001, the FCC mandated new rules for location services, but until wireless carriers adopt that technology, emergency personnel suggest anyone who calls 911 from a cell phone to provide their location first if possible.

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