New tool helps Macomb County dispatchers find callers if 911 call disconnects

The Macomb County Dispatch Center is implementing a new potentially life-saving tool that helps track a 911 caller's location if the call gets dropped.

Officials said the center is now using RapidSOS, a program that helps police pinpoint someone's location if they called on a cell phone while they're in motion for 15 minutes after the call has been disconnected. The location can be tracked within a three-meter radius -- even if it's moving.

This is a more accurate tracking method, as information typically comes from triangulation. This means that information from 911 calls come from the wireless device connecting to three separate cell towers, providing dispatch with a location -- but one that could be as far as 1,000 meters away from the actual person calling.

Officials said the location information can only be obtained if the mobile device has called 911. They said this method is very useful in situations where a victim is trying to call for help and a suspect intervenes.

According to the Macomb County Sheriff's Office, the program is already paying off. They said dispatch took a call from someone having a seizure and while that person gave the right numbers for the address, they gave the wrong street name. EMS arrived and did not find a patient, so they used Rapid SOS. IT gave a location one street south with the same street number.  Officials said the tool potentially saved minutes of dispatch attempting to contact the caller for an updated location.

RapidSOS is interfaced with Smart911, a state-funded program through 2020, so it does not cost the Macomb County Sheriff's Office anything at this time.