By Ed Runyan
Delayed several years by a lawsuit, today Trumbull County 911 will have the capability to better locate wireless calls.
This is important when a wireless 911 caller doesn’t know where he or she is, or can’t speak.
Trumbull County is the last of the state’s 88 counties to put the technology into use.
The new equipment, called enhanced wireless 911 service, enables 911 operators to identify the location of a cellphone call within feet instead of miles.
“This will save lives,” said Ernie Cook, county 911 director.
A lawsuit filed by some of the smaller 911 dispatching centers delayed implementation of the service in Trumbull by more than two years until Judge John M. Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled in the county’s favor in 2010.
There have been several examples in recent years in which help might have arrived faster if the county had the enhanced wireless technology.
Last June, one of two girls who died along with their mother and mother’s boyfriend in a house fire on Austin Avenue Northwest in Warren called 911 from her cellphone while the fire was consuming the house.
The girl placed the call at 3:21 a.m., saying only, “We’re dying, we’re dying,” followed later by, “We’re dying ... we’re really hot.”
The dispatcher asked the girl several times to say her address and tell what was the matter, but within a short time, the girl no longer was talking to the dispatcher.
It may have delayed response by about four minutes.
In August 2011, a 71-year-old Niles man called 911 from his cellphone while in his car, which he had driven off the road and into a ravine on Logan Avenue in Liberty Township.
The man, a diabetic who was past due for an insulin injection, was trapped in his car and didn’t know where he was.
The equipment available at the time narrowed down his location to within several miles, but that left police and fire officials to search a wide area in Hubbard and elsewhere for more than three hours without finding him.
He eventually was found by a Liberty resident who saw the man’s headlights when it got dark.
Brent Milhoan, Lordstown police chief, said dispatch centers such as his that are not part of the county dispatching operation will have access to the enhanced wireless service starting today, but wireless calls will have to pass through the county center first before being forwarded to the Lordstown dispatching center.
The delay will be only momentary, and the Lords-town dispatcher still will be the first voice the caller hears, Miloan said. Lords-town will have its own enhanced 911 equipment fairly soon, and then the wireless calls will come directly to the Lordstown center.