Wireless E-911

In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order requiring implementation of a new Enhanced 9-1-1 system for wireless phone carriers nationwide. This order changed the State 911 Department's mission from focusing primarily on wire-line 9-1-1 to the new phase of wireless communications. As an estimated 50% of 9-1-1 calls are made from wireless phones nationwide, Massachusetts and other states recognize the significance of implementing this program. In 2002, the state created a Wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 Fund for this purpose, with a surcharge of $.30 per month. This surcharge and fund are used solely to fund the implementation and administration of wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 in Massachusetts.

Phase I of the FCC's plan requires all wireless carriers to provide an emergency dispatcher with both the telephone number of the person calling and the location of the closest cell site or base station transmitting the call; this phase was accomplished in Massachusetts in April 2003. Phase II requires wireless carriers to begin providing a more precise location to the dispatcher including the latitude and longitude of the caller (information must be accurate within 50-300 meters); this phase was completed in Massachusetts in early 2006.

What You Need To Know About Calling 911 From Your Wireless Phone

The State 911 Department along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) think it's important for consumers to know more about calling 911 from a wireless phone. In 2002, the Massachusetts legislature created a 911 Wireless Fund and established a 911 wireless surcharge of $.30 per phone. This surcharge, in its entirety, funds the implementation of Wireless Enhanced 911(E911) in Massachusetts

The FCC has developed at two phase approach to implementing wireless 911 technology. The FCC defines Phase I as the ability of the 911 call taker "know the wireless phone number of the caller and which communication tower is transmitting the call, which greatly narrows the potential area of search". Although this information is helpful, it does not detail the exact location of the call. This phase was completed in Massachusetts in 2003.

When placing a call from your wireless phone, it is important to know your call is initially routed to the Massachusetts State Police and then transferred to the appropriate first responder. It is essential to remember the following when calling 911 from a wireless phone:

Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.

  • Give the emergency operator your wireless phone number so that if the call gets disconnected, the operator can call you back.
  • If your wireless phone is not "initialized" (I.e., if you have a pre-paid phone or any other type of wireless phone that does not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because he or she does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
  • Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 911 when one button, such as the "9" key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency services call centers.
  • If your wireless phone came preprogrammed with the auto-dial 911 feature already turned on, turn off this feature. Check your user manual to find out how.
  • Lock your keypad when you're not using your wireless phone. This action also prevents accidental calls to 911.

Being aware of all of this information will save valuable time during an emergency.

Massachusetts is currently Phase II compliant. The State 911 Department completed installation and implementation of E911 Phase II in Massachusetts in early 2006. Phase II is defined as providing the 911 call taker with more specific location information on the whereabouts of the caller. This information will be extremely helpful in providing timely emergency services to wireless callers. The FCC rules require wireless carriers, within six months of a valid request by a public safety answering point (PSAP), to begin providing more precise location information to the PSAP, specifically, the latitude and longitude of the caller. The SETB has requested the wireless carriers deploy Phase II in the first half of 2004. When purchasing a wireless phone, the consumer should ask the carrier if their phones are Phase II compatible.

All of these measures are being taken to ensure wireless callers receive adequate emergency services. The State 911 Department hopes to provide the same level of emergency services to wireless callers as exists with wireline 911 calls. If you would like any additional information please contact the State 911 Department at 508-828-2911.

Emergency Dial 911

State Police are Eliminating *SP and *MSP:
Remind Motorists "9-1-1 SAVES LIVES"

The Massachusetts State Police and the State 911 Department would like to remind motorists to dial 9-1-1 for all roadway emergencies. This is a fundamental cornerstone to ensuring a prompt emergency response of police, fire or EMS personnel. When you dial 9-1-1 on your wireless phone, vital information is presented to State Police dispatch personnel, including your approximate location. The dispatchers assess the information and notify the appropriate State Police barracks or the local authorities of jurisdiction.