Southwestern Bell Becomes First to Direct Wireless 9-1-1 Calls to City Police, Area Sheriff's Departments

Southwestern Bell Wireless enhances customer safety, community-at-large

St. Louis, Missouri, March 25, 1997

Personal safety throughout the Greater St. Louis area is being enhanced by a new Southwestern Bell Wireless technology that enables cellular 9-1-1 calls to be directed to the area's largest police and sheriff's departments, Southwestern Bell announced today.

Effective immediately, emergency 9-1-1 calls made by Southwestern Bell cellular customers will -- based on their location -- be directed to St. Louis City Police, St. Louis County Police or the sheriff's departments in St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties. The 9-1-1 calls made by Southwestern Bell's cellular customers in Illinois are already directed to the Madison, Monroe, St. Clair and Clinton county sheriff's departments.

When wireless 9-1-1 was introduced by Southwestern Bell in 1994, St. Louis County Police asked that cellular 9-1-1 calls in the region be directed to their dispatchers because they had the technological expertise to immediately route the calls to the appropriate police and fire department throughout Central and Eastern Missouri.

Southwestern Bell's new technology will shorten emergency response time because the 9-1-1 calls will be directed automatically -- based on a cellular tower's location -- to the closest police or sheriff's department in the Greater St. Louis area. Additionally, Southwestern Bell's new technology will provide some indication of the cellular caller's general location to police and fire rescuers.

These are both "firsts" in the St. Louis region and in the state of Missouri, said Frank Boyer, regional vice president/general manager, Southwestern Bell Wireless, Missouri's leading cellular service provider.

"Our new cellular 9-1-1 system is among the most advanced in the nation," Boyer said. "As our wireless technology continues to develop, we'll continue working with the 9-1-1 community to enhance our 9-1-1 capabilities even more," he said.

"More than 70 percent of our customers say they subscribe to our cellular service for reasons of personal safety and peace-of-mind," Boyer added. "This new technology clearly meets our customers' wants and needs."

Southwestern Bell introduced wireless service in the St. Louis area in July 1984. Today, it has become an industry leader throughout Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Southwestern Bell's parent company, SBC Communications, also has become one of the largest and most successful wireless providers in the nation.

"This achievement also will help alleviate some of the pressure on the St. Louis County Police Department, which has been retrieving cellular 9-1-1 calls in Missouri since we introduced the service several years ago," Boyer said.

The benefits affect now only wireless customers, but all residents throughout the region, Boyer said, adding that industry statistics show 97 percent of all wireless 9-1-1 calls are made on someone else's behalf. Calls from "cellular Samaritans" range from motorist break-downs on the highway to serious crimes, fires and vehicle accidents, according to Lieutenant William S. Harlan, commander of the Bureau of Communications for the St. Louis County Police Department.

Prior to the new system, St. Louis County dispatchers handle about 580 cellular 9-1-1 calls per 24 hour shift, according to police statistics. Nearly 62 percent of those calls are made by Southwestern Bell Wireless customers. Of the total number of wireless 9-1-1 calls received by County Police dispatchers, about 63 percent are directed to emergency response units within St. Louis County; 25 percent are transferred to St. Louis City Police; and, the remaining 12 percent are divided among the St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin County sheriff's departments and other law enforcement agencies in outstate Missouri.

"This new technology also will enhance emergency response time by two seconds to two minutes per incident," Harlan said. "This brief amount of time can be crucial during any emergency."

It also will provide law enforcement officials with an indication of the caller's general location. Unlike dialing 9-1-1 from a home or business, the cellular phone number is not assigned to a street address. Even with this new technology, Southwestern Bell Wireless customers must still tell the dispatcher their location and the nature of their emergency.

Although the caller must verbally provide details of the emergency, the responding dispatcher will be able to detect the caller's general location, based on the Southwestern Bell "cell sector" and "triangular geometry," Boyer explained.

The "cell sector" refers to the perimeter served by a specific cellular antennae, and "triangular geometry" refers to the "alpha," "beta" or "gamma" portion of the antennae from which cellular calls are received and transmitted.

Based on the tower's location and the direction of the transmitted signal, dispatchers will be able to determine the general location of the caller, Boyer said. Given the knowledge that is electronically provided to dispatchers, an emergency response team could launch a search and rescue effort in the general area where the caller is located.

With about 200 cellular antennas in Central, Eastern and Southeast Missouri -- about half are located in the St. Louis region -- Southwestern Bell has the largest coverage area in the region, Boyer said.

Southwestern Bell Wireless, Missouri's largest cellular provider, is a subsidiary of SBC Communications Inc., one of the world's leading diversified telecommunications companies, with tens of millions of customers in 13 U.S. states and eight countries. Through its subsidiaries, it provides innovative communications services under the Southwestern Bell and Cellular One brands, including local and long-distance telephone, wireless, paging, Internet access, cable TV and messaging services, as well as telecommunications equipment, and directory advertising and publishing. SBC ( reported 1996 revenues of $13.9 billion.

Greater St. Louis Area

St. Louis City Police Dept. Sgt. Ralph Toenjes 1200 Clark Ave., St. Louis
St. Louis Co. Police Dept. Lt. William Harlan or
Sgt. Jerry Brindell
7900 Forsyth Ave., Clayton
889-2411 or 889-2411
St. Charles Co. Sheriff Dept. Dept. Rodney Zerr 301 N. Second, St. Charles
Jeff. County 9-1-1 Dispatch Brenda Shular 5475 Buckeye Valley Rd., House Springs
Franklin Co. Sheriff Dept. Judith Woods #1 Bruns Dr., Union