News

Disability indicators available for cell phone callers

News: **Update to MA 911 Disability Indicator Form**

Massachusetts 9-1-1 now gives the option for individuals with disabilities to register their cell phone number on the MA 911 Disability Indicator Form. (Previously, only landlines could be registered.) If someone who completes this form calls 9-1-1 from any location in Massachusetts, the disability code they select appears on the dispatcher’s screen. The first responders are then notified that someone may require additional assistance.

If there are several cell phone numbers associated with an address, you can include all of the numbers on one form.

After completing the form, drop it off at your local police station for processing. https://www.mass.gov/doc/disability-indicator-form/download

News: Calling 911 on a Mobile Phone

The New York Times Tech Tip: Calling 911 on a Mobile Phone  

By J.D. Biersdorfer March 21, 2017

Q. I saw on the news that a bunch of cellphone users couldn’t connect to the 911 emergency number the other week because of an “outage.” Why is dialing 911 different on a mobile phone than on a landline?

A. When someone dials the national 911 number, a nearby call center for emergency services (known as a public safety answering point, or P.S.A.P.) picks up the call and the operator dispatches medical technicians, police, firefighters or personnel from another appropriate agency in the area. This month, calls from AT&T wireless users in at least 14 states would not go through to the emergency network from AT&T’s own cellular airwaves for several hours, possibly because of a malfunction with the software routing the calls to the 911 centers.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement the day after the disruption to say the agency was looking into the cause. However, AT&T is not the first or only wireless carrier to have problems connecting customers to 911 services. Among the previous cases, an F.C.C. investigation into a Verizon outage and a failure to provide emergency-call service to some subscribers in 2014 resulted in a $3.4 million settlement.

A page devoted to 911 wireless services on the F.C.C.’s website explains the challenge of handling emergency calls from wireless phones instead of wired landlines. The agency notes that because “wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address” like landlines. While the mobile phone can provide the location of the nearest cell tower, those coordinates may not be specific enough for a 911 dispatcher to use for directing a responder. When calling 911 from a wireless phone, be sure to give your exact location and phone number immediately in case you are disconnected.

To help pinpoint calls, almost all carriers use Enhanced 911 services to provide dispatchers with more precise information, like the geographical coordinates of the mobile phone, but some P.S.A.P. centers do not yet have the technology to receive the data. The major national carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all have information on emergency-calling services on their sites.

A version of this article appears in print on March 23, 2017, on Page B7 of the New York edition with the headline: Troubles With 911 for Cellphone Users.

News: Calling 9-1-1 Without Speaking

“A 12-year-old Waltham boy was home sick from school last week when a man broke into his house. He hid in the bedroom, called his mother and dialed 9-1-1. The police dispatcher was able to help him to stay quiet and calm, and together they use a silent method to get information having him press 1 for yes and 2 for no.”

Click here to read the whole article on Patch.

News: Spray-On Sunscreen Harmful?

The FDA is investigating the potentially harmful effects of spray-on sunscreens.  The concern is over the hazards for children if they breath in the mist as it is applied.  Watch a July 2014 new story here.