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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska is trying to transform its 50-year-old 911 system to better locate calls made on cellphones, according to public safety officials.

Four of every five 911 calls in the state are made on cellphones, officials told the Lincoln Journal Star , but the current system can’t receive GPS data to help locate those who call from a cellphone.

“You’d be surprised how often people don’t know where they’re at,” said Tom Casady, director of Lincoln Public Safety.

The 911 center gets a general location from a cellphone tower when a call is taken, Casady said. Authorities can triangulate a cellphone caller’s location within about 300 meters as the call progresses, he said.

“(It’s) not nearly as precise as people are led to believe from movies,” Casady said. “And not nearly as precise as they’re led to believe from the apps that they use every day on their phone.”

Cellphone callers in urban areas can be even more difficult to track down because of imprecise call-locating methods, Casady said.

In contrast, calls from landlines automatically deliver an address to the 911 center, he said.

Officials are considering adopting a new system called Next Generation 911, said Dave Sankey, the state’s 911 director. The system would rely on internet calling, which will allow more information to be transmitted when calls are made, he said.

State Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson introduced a bill that would create an advisory group to explore the issue for the Public Service Commission. The group would make recommendations regarding the system before the commission puts out an official bid. That could occur as early as next Fall, Sankey said.

Sankey said his staff is already working to create accurate geographic information system maps of city and county boundaries, law enforcement jurisdictions, fire districts, streets and home addresses. These maps will help 911 dispatchers send the right services to the right places, he said.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,