Monday, November 22, 2004


Dial 911 -- How effective is it?

According to this
. . . about 200 millions call are made to 911 annually, and about one-third of those are from wireless phones. In many communities, emergency calls from cell phones comprise one-half or more of the total 911 calls. NENA officials estimate that 12 million to 15 million households will be using voice over IP service as either a primary or secondary line by the end of 2008.
But how many of these are duplicates?
How many are about, "A dog in the trash," or some other non-emergency?
How many calls don't get through or hit a "busy" signal?
How many are subject to operator error?
Of the ones that are real emergencies, how much do they help? How many seconds faster is the response? How many lives are saved?

What kinds of situations is 911 good for? And where does it break down entirely?

Has anybody tried to answer questions like these? My preliminary looking says, "no." Of course, in some cases these statistics are not knowable, but perhaps we could make meaningful estimates. And others are eminently answerable, but there's no evidence that **I** have been able to find that attempts have been made to answer them.The article says
[On November 17] National Emergency Number Association (NENA) officials kicked off their Next Generation E911 program today to address the technical, operational and policy issues associated with modernizing the E911 system and integrating new technologies, such as voice over IP, instant messaging, short message service messaging, Wi-Fi, geographic information systems and video.
But shouldn't we know where we've been before we know where to go next?

To me, an outsider, it looks like the 911 system, while it is based on a reasonable idea, has the wrong architecture, the wrong assumptions, and a set of entrenched users and interests that might ignore alternative ways to solve the emergency services problem better.

Sure, just ask around. There are lots of 911 horror stories. Here's mine: a friend nearly cut his thumb off on a chop saw. Left little bits of flesh on the tines of the blade, and droplets of blood all over, that I had to clean up. He ran inside to call 911, and .... it was busy. He called the next best thing to 911: his department secretary. He knew SHE would be available. She got him an ambulence and to the hospital in no time, thumb repaired, and he's all better now.

No thanks to 911.
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