When you call 911 with a cell phone the wireless carrier handling the call will often provide the dispatcher with reasonably good latitude longitude coordinates for your location. The wireless carrier does this by either accessing the GPS in your phone or by various types of cell tower triangulation. However, the reality is that technology fails to work often enough that everyone with a cell phone should have a backup plan for how they can clearly, accurately and quickly inform a 911 dispatcher of their location.
Sure, if you can give the dispatcher a street address or good verbal description (i.e. heart attack - south end of the Home Depot parking lot), that will work fine. But what happens when you need help *Right Now* and (1) the wireless carrier is unable to provide the dispatcher with accurate coordinates for your location and (2) you are unable to sufficiently describe your location? How does the dispatcher know where to send help?
Here is a backup plan for anyone with a cell phone.
1. Browse to findmesar.com.
2. Tap the “Next format” button until the yellow screen appears. This screen shows your coordinates in the standard format (latitude longitude in decimal degrees) used by all 911 call centers.
3. Wait a few seconds for the accuracy to get to 30 meters or smaller.
4. Tap “Stop”
5. Read off the coordinates, accuracy, timestamp and (optionally) elevation.
To get the most accurate coordinates from your cell phone:
* The “location services” in your phone need to be “on”.
* iPhone users - on the same screen where you turn location services “on”, scroll down and make sure that your browser says “While using”.
* Android users - on the same screen where you turn location services “on”, make sure that the location method (also called “mode”) is set to “GPS only”. If you see a setting that says “High accuracy” do not use that setting since it allows data from cell towers to degrade the more accurate data produced by the GPS satellites.
* If you are inside and it is not safe to go outside, then try to stand by a large window.
* If you are in a vehicle, hold your phone under the windshield so your phone can ‘see’ more of the sky.
I am the developer of FindMeSAR (https://findmesar.com ). This browser app is a ‘no cost’ public service from me to the world. Over the years I have traveled a fair bit in the backcountry by foot, skis and horseback. Fortunately I have never needed to be rescued although I know others who have not been as lucky. This software project is something I can do to help bring about less search and more rescue.
Whether you are in the backcountry, a dense urban area or anywhere in between, you can use FindMeSAR when other methods for giving 911 your location fail.
FindMESAR is open source. Anyone that can read code can look at it and confirm that there is no evil intent.
The app includes an icon that you can save on your home screen so it is there when you need it in an emergency.
For more information, please open the app and tap the “About” button.