Tag Archive | law enforcement

Improving Wireless Location Detection

text message cell phonesWith so many households eliminating landline phones, the volume of 911 calls from cell phones is rapidly increasing. Callers may not be aware that the current technology to detect the location of a wireless phone is only accurate within 164 to 984 feet. This includes both latitude and longitude. For example, if a 911 call came from within a high-rise building, first responders are unable to determine the floor or sometimes even the building where the 911 call originated.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing new rules for cell carriers to help improve the accuracy of location information transmitted with 911 calls. The proposal asks wireless providers to meet interim location accuracy metrics that would be sufficient to identify the building and deliver vertical location information that would enable first responders to identify the building floor level.

In the long term, the FCC is seeking to develop more granular indoor location accuracy standards that would require identification of the specific room, office, or apartment where a wireless 911 call is made.

Unfortunately, the major cell carriers as well as CTIA – The Wireless Association are opposing the proposed changes. Cell carriers argue that the technology does not currently exist to meet the new rules. Privacy advocates have expressed concern with the proposed changes and how the location information might be used outside of emergency response.

We certainly hope that both the cell carriers and the FCC can agree upon achievable goals that will help first responders quickly and accurately locate citizens in need of help.

Learn more: http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-acts-help-emergency-responders-locate-wireless-911-callers


Encrypting Police Radio Transmissions

There is an important debate taking place regarding the growing trend of encrypting law enforcement radio transmissions.

172434_1012On one side you have law enforcement agencies insisting on encryption to prevent criminals from monitoring transmissions and protect the safety of officers.

On the other side you have the media and the general public arguing for right of access to information transmitted over the public airwaves.

While easily accessible smart phone apps and scanners can help the general public to hear when a traffic accident blocks a major intersection, it can also enable criminals to determine when and where officers may be located.

Some states already have legislation in place that allows encryption on emergency communication. Law enforcement agencies can then choose to provide the media and other agencies with an encryption key to restrict access to radio transmissions.

What do you think? Should law enforcement restrict access to its transmissions?

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Twitter Overload

With all the hype surrounding Twitter and its use during emergencies, it is disconcerting to find out that Twitter has limits that can impact your ability to communicate in a crisis. The Calgary Police Department found this out the hard way during the recent catastrophic flooding.

Calgary Police (@CalgaryPolice) was using its Twitter account to aid the public in mass evacuations when late in the day, Twitter informed the department it had exceeded its daily allotment of tweets and froze the account – putting the police in ‘Twitter jail.’

‘Twitter jail’ is what the Twitterverse calls the lockdown after tweeting more than 100 times per hour, or 1000 times per day. The lockdown can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

The lockdown of the Calgary Police’s account prevented them from being able to directly respond to citizens tweeting them to get more information about road closures and evacuations. A Constable in the Digital Communications Unit had to take over tweeting from his personal account, gradually spreading the word on evacuations and notifications aided by retweets from followers and supporters such as the Saskatoon police department.

Twitter eventually realized the error and restored the police department’s account.

With the rising importance of Twitter as a crisis communications tool, this is the first publicized failure of the system in this manner. It emphasizes the importance of using multiple communication channels rather than relying on one alone.

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