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Federal Communications Commission Adopts Rule Requiring Location-Based Routing for 9-1-1 Calls

On January 26, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report and order, which adopted rules to increase the precision of routing wireless 9-1-1 calls to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Historically, these calls have been sent to PSAPs simply based on the location of the cell tower that takes the call. This process caused problems when a 9-1-1 call was made from Jurisdiction A, but the nearest cell tower is located in Jurisdiction B; this situation would require PSAPs to transfer the 9-1-1 call among themselves to find the correct jurisdiction. It takes time and resources to make these transfers, leading to increased response times and increased harm to those in need of emergency services. In an extreme example, a six-year-old boy drowned in July 2022, when a 9-1-1 call originating in Missouri was mistakenly routed to Colorado.1

Under the new FCC rules, wireless providers are required to use technology that allows for location-based routing. This method uses the caller’s IP-network to provide a more accurate location from which the call is originating, allowing for the correct PSAP to receive the call.

The FCC estimates that the cost of this program will be up to $215 million; however, this is drastically outweighed by the $173 billion benefit of eliminating the call transfer time between PSAPs and reducing deaths due to such delay.2

National wireless providers have until November 13, 2024, to implement their location-based routing programs for wireless calls and until May 13, 2026, for real-time texts (non-national wireless providers have until May 13, 2026, for both wireless calls and texts).

The Impact on Fire Departments

  • The FCC estimates that PSAPs would realize an annual savings of up to $74.3 million.3
  • The FCC estimates that over 1.3 million 9-1-1 calls would no longer be at risk of needing to be rerouted.iv 4 This leads to a reduction in response time of at least one minute.5
  • One emergency response entity in rural Arkansas reported that 30 percent or more of the 9-1-1 calls made in its jurisdiction are misrouted from neighboring jurisdictions.6This FCC rule requires nationwide implementation and will benefit both urban and rural PSAPs and fire departments alike.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs thanks the FCC for moving this impactful and life-saving proposal forward. We will continue to monitor the FCC’s work on Location-Based Routing for 9-1-1 calls and will maintain its efforts to strengthen our membership’s ability to conduct operations in the most effective and efficient ways.

John Drummond is the legal intern for the IAFC Government Relations & Policy department.

2.See section F, item 117 in FCC 24-4
3.See section F, item 119 in FCC 24-4
4.See above section and item
5.See FCC 24-4, footnote 392
6.See FCC 24-4, footnote 16

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