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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 2:50 p.m., Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kauai 911 operators can pinpoint cell phone callers

Advertiser Staff

LIHU'E — Dispatchers at the Kaua'i Police Department are now able to immediately pinpoint and digitally map the location of 911 calls made on most cell phones around the island.

Previously, only calls from landlines could be tracked because they are linked to a residence or business.

"We're pleased that the E911 system, which is designed to help save lives, is fully implemented on Kaua'i," said Mayor Bryan Baptiste. "Our emergency workers now have the capability of locating most 911 cell phone callers, including stranded hikers and people who are injured and can't describe where they're at."

Through the Enhanced 911 system, the location of a caller using a cell phone is determined by triangulation or, in the case of newer telephones, by a Global Positioning System chip imbedded in the phone.

E911 mapping is the process of displaying the caller's location on a map within 100 meters or less so police dispatchers can immediately see where the call is coming from instead of simply reading an address or latitude and longitude location as text.

"The E911 system has enabled our dispatchers to process the calls a lot faster. Correspondingly, emergency responders are able to get to callers in distress faster as well," said Kathleen Langtad, radio dispatch supervisor.

She said that 44-inch monitors were installed above each dispatcher's station as part of the E911 roll-out.

The county's Information Technology team had been working in partnership with the police department and cell phone companies on the E911 project for several years.

"Thinking back to when we first envisioned this system to where we're at now, it was definitely worth the effort of working through many technical challenges in order to help save lives," said Eric Knutzen, head of the county's IT team. "Many thanks to everyone in the police department and IT who contributed to the E911 project, along with the mayor and the County Council whose support helped to bring the system online."

In 2004, the state Legislature established the Wireless Enhanced 911 Board to administer the collection and distribution of funds from a monthly surcharge of 66 cents, which is paid by each wireless customer.