In Wilkes County, North Carolina, commissioners agreed in 2009 to implement a GPS-based 911 addressing system, such as was made the universal standard in 1995, throughout its cities; however, officials hit a snag when they discovered that 300 roads in the county had no name connected to 911 records. GPS coordinates were established for existing addresses in 2010, but what to do with those 300 roads poses a problem for the county. The system that commissioners and emergency personnel hoped would be up and running in 2012 may not be used at all.
Although the commission had already signed a $145,000 contract with Kimball to establish the GPS coordinates for the county, officials believe the benefits of connecting them to the 911 address system would be far too costly. They argue that because the state requires each road to be named through individual public hearings and because there is a $30,000-$40,000 cost for providing new road signs, the GPS-based 911 addressing system is not justified.
Advocates of the system argue that the ability to get to a precise location in less time more than pays for the system. Also, the system would be funded by a 911 surcharge of $0.80 placed on each wireless and land line user; telecommunications providers collect the fees and send them on to the county for distribution. Since over one-third of all 911 calls are from wireless callers and since the FCC already mandates that wireless carriers provide coordinates of latitude and longitude for wireless calls coming into the 911 call centers, it seems logical to link GPS technology to 911 address records. Lack of this technology not only hinders emergency officials, but it also keeps emergency services from utilizing certain software applications that are designed to be used in conjunction with the GPS-based system.
With more than 240 million 911 calls a year, using modern GPS technology to aid emergency personnel only makes sense. EMS, police, and fire departments all need a trustworthy system in place to do their job effectively. If they are hindered by wrong directions or lack of an address, lives could be lost. Who can put a price on a life saved?