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Judicial and Public Safety Committee

Cayuga County E-911 Administrator Denise Spingler, standing, explains to the county Legislature's Judicial and Public Safety Committee about a new system the department is testing to serve as a backup for locating emergency callers' locations.

AUBURN — Cayuga County's E-911 Emergency Communications Department this week began testing a backup system for pinpointing the location of calls, department Director Denise Spingler said Wednesday.

In situations where callers can't identify their location, such as domestic violence cases where the caller can't speak or similar situations, the county's E-911 phone system is able to determine where the call is being made using nearby cell towers.

Beginning this week, the department has been testing a supplementary, web-based system called RapidSOS that would locate calls with nearly as much accuracy in the event the main system goes down, Spingler told the Cayuga County Legislature's Judicial and Public Safety Committee.

When taking a call, department staff enter the relevant information into RapidSOS' web-based solution and receive a location estimate. In addition to a map visualization, the system also provides altitude, latitude and longitude and a percentage-based confidence factor.

In the example Spingler gave to legislators, the main system was able to identify the call as coming from a certain portion of the Cayuga County Public Safety Building. RapidSOS, meanwhile, provided a slightly larger radius of where the call could be, extending just being the building's parking lot.

As the system is still being developed and currently under testing, it comes with some limitations, Spingler said. It currently only works with phones using the iOS 12 or Android 4.0 operating systems, while the main system's most accurate features work with 99 percent of phones.

However, with County Administrator J. Justin Woods noting that the system comes at no cost to the county, Spingler said it was still worth using in the event the main system goes down.

"There could be that time it works that we need it," Spingler said.

Spingler also provided the committee with a brief summary of the department's 2018 activity. Department staff answered 166,144 calls last year, 4,000 higher than 2017, which Spingler said was proof that emergency responders have been getting busier and busier.

One E-911 employee, Denise Cornelius, was awarded the department's "Busy Bee Award" for the second year in a row for answering 19,000 calls in 2018, Spingler said.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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County government reporter