County to map cell phone towers to aid first responders

Officials in York County, Pa., will spend $84,000 to verify the locations of more than 200 cell phone towers to make sure 911 calls from older mobile devices are tracked accurately, Sarah Rich writes in Government Technology.

The county depends on tower locations provided by cell phone companies, and 911 calls from older mobile phones that don’t have built-in GPS must be triangulated from the location of the towers to determine the location of those callers, the story said.

Incorrect information can delay first responders because they must rely on the location of the cell phone towers to find those callers, the article continued.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 9, 2011 SuperDave

It is a great idea to solve a problem now and a one time solution. But things will keep changing and it will become a yearly project. Tower registrations are recorded in two levels of which the local government has access. One sugestion is to make a agenda item in the county court meetings for review...

Mon, Aug 8, 2011

Ottawa County Michigan completed a comprehensive tower inventory in 2007 and an update in 2009 for the cost of only a few hours of staff time. GPS coordinates of tower site locations were obtained using the FCC's online tower antenna registration database. To identify the locations of 'unregistered towers' local government officials were contacted to provide a listing of all towers in their respective community. The comprehensive (and cost-effective) inventory is available for view and download from the County's website (

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 ek

It is a data quality issue. Cell tower licensees do submit locations, but who checks the submissions? In my state, the state e911 organization does it. Not happening in PA?

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 JC3

To Dave K's comment. Seems a State mandate for cell licensing/continued licensing include the GPS data which the cell providers already have as each provider adds/moves/etc its tower placements. Simple configuration management of a vital resource. PEMA'S 911 management has the responsibility/ oversight. 67 counties times $84K (plus or minus) does not equal an IT and/or Emergency Responder efficiency. js

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 Dave K

What a waste of $84K! The County should simply have mandated that, in order to comply with 911 laws, each provider be required to register it's tower, including GPS coordinates.

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