ATLANTA -- A bill in the legislature could lead to what many say is a long-overdue fix for the state’s 911 systems. A series of stories by the 11Alive investigators showed that 911 systems aren’t able to take advantage of digital information available on cell phones – some of which can be lifesaving.
The state’s 911 system was state of the art 20 years ago – when 911 calls tended to come from analog, land-line phones.
When 31-year-old Shanell Anderson accidentally drove her SUV into a lake, she used her cell phone to call 911.
"What lake?" A 911 operator asked her.
"The fairway off of Batesville. 30188," Anderson answered, giving the ZIP code. Anderson knew the area. She delivered newspapers there, and had plunged into the lake in the predawn darkness.
The lake was a thousand yards from the Fulton / Cherokee County line. Her 911 call was routed to the wrong jurisdiction.
Although she knew exactly where she was, it took emergency rescuers 19 minutes to figure out her location – too late to save her life.
"She knew where she was. She told 911 where she was exactly!" her mother, Jacquene Curlee told 11Alive investigator Brendan Keefe in 2015. "And for them still not to be able to locate her is insane."
Now lawmakers want to create a framework to overhaul 911 statewide.
"Our system is built on a voice platform because we didn’t have (digital phone) devices when we built out the current 911 system," said Clint Mueller of the Georgia Association of County Commissioners.
Mueller says the bill would pave the way for 911 systems across the state to accept data from cell phone callers to 911 -- potentially allowing them to send images of crime scenes, medical information, schematics of burning buildings,or GPS locations directly to 911 operators.
"Some people are not able to always communicate verbally. They may be where their life is at risk, and they cannot talk," Mueller said. "Theres a lot of things we can do with technology. We just have to make sure we are modernizing our governmental systems to take advantage of the new technology that’s out there."
Senate bill 222 has already passed the Senate.