911 solution comes to Kansas City - KCTV5

911 solution comes to Kansas City

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(Angie Ricono) (Angie Ricono)

A recent tragedy that highlighted how cell phone calls for help in an emergency can fail is prompting change.

A tech company called RapidSOS will install a software patch in Kansas City. That means 911 calls from cell phones will soon transmit information accurately and quickly.

“We've been working on this the last two years. If you dial 911 now, we can transmit all the information,” said Michael Martin with RapidSOS.

KCTV5’s investigative department discovered RapidSOS while doing research on the problem.

There are a lot of tech companies offering cell phone apps where you can use the app to connect with first responders. But, people who manage call centers point out people don’t always download apps and what happens when people upgrade and switch phone. Plus, kids are taught to call 911.

RapidSOS found a way to upgrade landline systems so cell phone calls will work like traditional landline calls. Call takers will even see how a cell phone moves. It’s a huge safety upgrade. It means first responders can trust the information coming into call centers.

KCTV5 put RapidSOS in touch with the Mid-American Regional Council who manages our regional 911 system,

“This will be a huge improvement. We've been location accuracy my entire career here, 11 years,” said Hassan Al-Rubaie, MARC's technology specialist manager.

Al-Rubaie has worked with KCTV5 to demonstrate how cell phone calls, which make up the vast majority of emergency calls for help, don’t smoothly integrate into the current 911 system.

Call takers often see incorrect location information and because the information is often wrong, they never trust it. Most of the time this doesn’t matter and people just share an address. But when people can’t, there are devastating consequences.

Shannon’s story

Shannon Keithley died last August. She was robbed and raped and died while fleeing her attacker in a car crash. Records show she called 911 for help two separate times but she couldn’t share her address during that first initial call.

“It’s so painful to think about what she went through- how she though help was on its way,” says Keithley's sister, Angelia Savorelli.

Keithley's family was left heartbroken and frustrated.

“It’s hard to make sense of it. You want to lash out. Why? Why isn't this already fixed?” questions Keithley's sister, Heather Isbell.

Keithley's family became outspoken advocates. They questioned how Uber and Pokemon can find people and 911 could not.

The Kansas City, KS Police Department shared their frustration and MARC technology specialists sat down with our investigative team producing a series of reports on 911 location information gaps.

Those reports were shared with RapidSOS.

The president of the company saw an opportunity to launch his software somewhere that is urban, suburban and very spread out.  Kansas City is ideal test market and one of the first places this patch will go live. And, Kansas City gets the patch for free.

The process has already started and the RapidSOS software should be fully implemented and active by late spring.

It comes too late for Keithley, which is heartbreaking for her family. But, they are thrilled there a solution is on the horizon.

“That's Shannon. That's really Shannon right there,” said Savorelli.

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