City Shows Off High-Tech Service That Helps Locate 911 Callers

Sharon Yamamoto
Sharon Yamamoto
Gordon Bruce
Gordon Bruce

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Honolulu Police Department's dispatch center undergoes a $1.5 million facelift.

One of the more exciting upgrades has to be the Enhanced 911 system, which helps emergency responders locate lost hikers, kidnapping victims and others.

Sharon Yamamoto sends help to people who need it. She's been a police radio dispatcher for nearly 25 years.

"Here I am. I'm still here," she said, laughing. "It feels pretty good, actually."

But at times, even this veteran can't tell where the person at the other end of the line is calling from.

"(They) try to tell you they're in like the cane fields," she said. "All they see is pineapple fields. That's really difficult."

It's like looking for a needle in a haystack, with the clock ticking.

"Up until this point in time, unless we could talk to you, and unless you knew where you were and could explain it to us clearly, we had no way of knowing where you are," Gordon Bruce, Honolulu Department of Information Technology, said.

But the city's Enhanced 911 system is changing that. GPS technology allows police, fire and ambulance dispatchers to instantly pinpoint a wireless caller's location.

"Heaven forbid, someone gets kidnapped," Bruce said. "And they dial 911, we can track them as long as that telephone is on."

The technology is helping Sharon do her job even better.

"Especially for fights or something, that's really important," she said. "You know, you don't want anybody getting hurt."

T-Mobile is the second wireless phone company, after Mobi PCS, to provide customers the service. The city expects Verizon, Cingular, Nextel and Sprint to be on board by the end of March.