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 Reporter/Producer for GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media, Ziadeh was a contributing journalist for USA Today Travel's Experience Food and Wine site. She's also held a communications assistant position with the University of Maryland Office of the Comptroller, and has reported for the American Journalism Review, Capitol File Magazine and DC Magazine.

Ziadeh is a graduate of the University of Maryland where her emphasis was multimedia journalism and French studies.

Click here for previous articles by Ms. Ziadeh or connect with her on Twitter: @aziadeh610.


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Reader Comments

Wed, May 18, 2016

After getting an ambulance bill for $1600 to drive me 3 miles, I wouldn't consider anything else. A ride and check my vital signs? Really??

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