Apple iOS 12 update will improve 911 response times

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) 911 dispatchers are usually the first to hear about any emergency.
Now Apple has announced a new update that will help improve response times.

"Right now in some jurisdictions, dispatchers are not immediately able to pinpoint the exact location of a caller," Stephen Owen, a professor at Radford University and the Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, said.

It's a problem that Apple is helping to solve with its iOS 12 update. With the update, the location of the caller will automatically and securely be sent to the dispatcher. Owen says Apple's latest update is part of a larger plan to improve 911 responses.

"911 is in the process of what's called Next Generation 911," Owen explained. "And that's to better incorporate internet platforms, as well as cellular telephones and especially drawing the location data out of those cellular phones."

Owen also oversees a 911 response center simulator on Radford University's campus where students can learn what it takes to be a dispatcher and organize the appropriate response to an emergency.

He says it's important for tech companies to work with 911 so the latest technology is effectively used to protect the public.

"As communication technology has become much more digital, and we move away from analog, having that kind of partnership is critical to ensuring public safety."

And location sharing is just the beginning. Next Generation 911 technology is also looking at ways to be able to process text messages, and see how dispatchers can use video and audio feeds to respond to an emergency.

"All of that is what's being discussed with Next Generation 911. And in the future I think we're going to see those technologies be more available to the telecommunicators," Owen said.