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Every year over 27 million total 9-1-1 calls are made in California, with all incoming calls routed to one of 438 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), based on the location of the caller. Before the rise of cellular phones, the caller’s location was reliable because all calls were from landlines that had a fixed address, enabling 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders to provide the appropriate public safety services at a specific location. In 2018, 81% of California’s 9-1-1 calls came from cellular devices that do not have a fixed location. Cellular 9-1-1 calls are delivered with a degree of uncertainty that is defined by a radius measured in meters. When the 9-1-1 call arrives at a PSAP, the uncertainty radius is displayed on the screen for the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Calls from landlines include an exact address, while cellular calls display latitude/longitude and a radius that varies from 100 meters to several thousand meters, making it difficult to determine the exact location of a 9-1-1 caller. People’s lives depend on 9-1-1 and they expect the 9-1-1 system to provide quick, reliable location information to 9-1-1 dispatchers in order to save lives.

In 2018, Apple and Google announced that they had the ability to provide more accurate location information from 9-1-1 callers. The cellular phone-based location information from Apple and Google would be sent to a 9-1-1 Clearinghouse managed by a company called RapidSOS, and then made available to 9-1-1 dispatchers. This announcement was enthusiastically embraced by California 9-1-1 dispatchers and PSAPs, which looked to the California Office of Emergency Services, 9-1-1 Branch (Cal OES) to deliver increased location accuracy information from incoming cellular calls.

Thanks to the leadership of Mark Ghilarducci and Mitch Medigovich, the vision and strategy of Budge Currier, and the 9-1-1 Branch, Cal OES has delivered increased location accuracy to the people of California. Delivering increased location accuracy information required overcoming some significant obstacles while complying with all state regulations and processes:

  • Cal OES researched and tested technologies that could display the increased location accuracy information with no impact to 9-1-1 dispatch operations and that did not rely on the existing equipment at each PSAP, yet still provided the ability to compare the supplemental location with legacy location information. The reality was that 90% of the 438 PSAPs in California did not have equipment that could support displaying the increased location accuracy information.

  • Cal OES had to develop a deployment strategy that could deliver the solution in less than six months. Using Cal OES technicians to speed the deployment process, equipment was installed at over 100 PSAPs per month. The solution also included the integration of non-traditional 9-1-1 connectivity that included multiple cellular connections from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint as well as a broadband connection from Comcast. The resulting public-private partnership leveraged the agility of a native cloud provider with traditional 9-1-1 system installers, state resources and cutting-edge technology.

  • Cal OES needed to streamline the procurement process that normally takes 12-18 months so that the project was not delayed. Cal OES worked with the Department of General Services’ Software License Program beginning in October 2018 and, by January 2019, a fully executed contract for the RapidDeploy software was in place that included training to the majority of dispatchers.


The innovative system pulls location information from the RapidSOS Clearinghouse, automatically displays the location of 9-1-1 cellular caller, displays the traditional location information, provides real-time location updates if the caller is moving, and supports the ability to display other critical information related to 9-1-1.


By March 2019, just two months after the contract was signed, Cal OES and RapidDeploy had installed the solution at 50 PSAPs, with most installations completed in less than an hour, including training the 9-1-1 dispatchers. The solution was then tested and vetted by the PSAPs through an extensive outreach and collaboration effort led by Cal OES. During the outreach Cal OES conducted 11 meetings in four weeks with over 500 attendees from the PSAP community. After validating the solution, the deployment continued. By December 31, 2019, 320 PSAPs had been deployed and the remaining 118 PSAPs will be completed in early 2020.


Throughout the process, Cal OES’ leadership, vision and drive directly contributed to the success of the project. Typical state projects can take years to implement; the 9-1-1 Location Accuracy System was delivered in less than six months for the initial buildout – and the benefits continue. Project managers and team members of the Cal OES ensured the solution was deployed properly and professionally, with 9-1-1 dispatchers using the technology to save lives. The entire Cal OES team remains focused on ensuring dispatchers have the tools and resources needed to enhance public safety.


A study by the FCC showed that improving 9-1-1 location accuracy could save 10,000 lives a year. The new system deployed by Cal OES improves the location accuracy of cellular 9-1-1 calls, leading to expedited emergency resources, reduced response times, and improved service to the public.


Inaccurate location information can add 30 seconds to a response time, as 9-1-1 dispatchers must determine where the caller is located before sending help. In some cases the 9-1-1 caller does not know where they are, further delaying response times. Every second lost puts more lives in jeopardy.


The primary beneficiaries of the 9-1-1 Location Accuracy System include:

  • All 9-1-1 operations in California, including 438 PSAPs, their dispatchers and first responders

  • 40 million California residents and over 68 million visitors each year

  •  All cellular callers to 9-1-1, which accounted for over 21 million in 2018, 81% of the overall workload

  • The families, friends and employers of those who receive emergency services.

Cal OES has received numerous stories of lives saved as a result of this transformative technology. However, the overall achievement of this innovation cannot truly be measured, since saving just one life through an expedited response is incalculable.