Terrain causes issues for cell phone users

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last Tuesday, when a local teenager was killed in a crash on Highway M north of Big M Marina, some of the first individuals to arrive at the scene had trouble contacting Barry County E-911. Although the local emergency service is continuously improving, some issues involving cellular phones could persist.

"Right now, depending upon where you are when you call 911, you are beamed to the closest tower," said Pat Leighter, Barry County E-911 director. "If you are in Eagle Rock or Shell Knob you might be closer to Carroll County (in Arkansas) or Stone County 911.

"I live in Monett," said Leighter. "When I made a call on Highway 60 the night of the tornados I was sent to Lawrence County."

Over the next year, Leighter hopes to implement phase one and phase two of wireless coverage, which will allow E-911 dispatchers to obtain a cell phone caller's name and locate the tower that the signal is coming from. The software will also pinpoint the latitude and longitude of the cell phone's location.

Even though this software will help responders locate a caller's cell phone and send emergency services to the location from which the call originated it will not correct the problem that causes a cell phone user's call to be transferred to another 911 center.

"Unfortunately, when you live in Barry County you are fighting the terrain," said Leighter.

Cell phone users can ensure that they reach a Barry County dispatcher by calling the Barry County Sheriff's Department's emergency telephone number, which is 847-4911. This number is also answered by an E-911 dispatcher.

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