911: Lost on the Line
WXIA-TV, NBC, Atlanta
In January 2015, a suburban Atlanta woman died from injuries suffered when her SUV skidded into a pond. She talked to a 911 operator as her vehicle sank. She might have survived if rescuers hadn’t had such difficulty finding her. Puzzled by the delay, WXIA’s Brendan Keefe investigated why one of the nation’s best 911 centers couldn’t pinpoint the accident location. He found that it’s actually a common experience for 911 dispatchers and that the underlying problem has to do with the logistics of cell-phone service. The Federal Communications Commission acknowledged to Keefe that it’s woefully behind in its campaign to make GPS-enabled phones signal their location. As a result of WXIA’s reports, the 911 center that received Shannell Anderson’s call expanded its proprietary maps five miles into each neighboring jurisdiction and retrained its dispatchers. Software developers launched new apps and other technological upgrades to address the blind spots of the nation’s 911 system. The FCC pledged to help develop a 911 app for smartphones and is now exploring routing calls to the correct 911 center based on the phone’s location, not the cell-tower location. For doggedly pursuing a local accident that proved to have national consequence – and for likely saving lives – a Peabody Award goes to 911: Lost on the Line.
PRIMARY PRODUCTION CREDITS
Chief Investigative Reporter, Writer, Producer, Photographer, Video Editor: Brendan Keefe. Executive Producer, Special Projects: Jeff Reid. Digital Producer: Phillip Kish. News Director: Jennifer Rigby. Vice President and General Manager: John Deushane.