HBO’s John Oliver explores why emergency call centers can’t accurately locate mobile callers

Need an ambulance? Better call Uber.

Effective 911 service is no laughing matter, yet Last Week Tonight host John Oliver devoted more than half of this week's episode to the topic -- spotlighting the systems' IT challenges in the process.

The fact that it's systems, plural, is part of the problem. Oliver noted that 911 includes 5,899 understaffed dispatch centers across the country with incompatible, antiquated technologies, inadequate funding and disjointed oversight.   And while 70 to 80 percent of 911 calls are now made from wireless devices, the chances of getting a mobile caller’s location correct varies widely -- from 10 percent to 95 percent, depending on the caller’s distance from a cell tower. 

Oliver rallied his audience to support interoperable, IP-based emergency communications -- arguing that 911 should be able to find you at least as well as apps for Uber or Domino’s Pizza can.

The full video is viewable below; 911's IT issues are first raised at roughly the 4:22 mark.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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