Six hours later, the roommate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student discovered his body, Times Union reported.
Landline numbers are much easier to find for these systems. But over 80 percent of calls to the nation’s 911 centers come from cell phones, the Washington Post reported.
The Federal Communications Commission has requested cell phone operators to improve the transfer of information to 911 centers. Carriers have until 2021 to ensure that the locations transmitted are within 50 yards 80 percent of the time.
Cities, including Washington, have collaborated with technology companies to improve their systems. Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel and the wireless industry have struggled to find a solution.
Ohio teenager Kyle Plush provided an answer to the problem in 2018. His idea, designed for a hack-a-thon competition, was to modify the Apple Watch to include a distress signal feature that he would send an exact location for first responders. Two months later, Kyle was trapped under a seat in his Honda minivan. When he called 911, the operator failed to understand the teenager gasping for breath, The Post reported.
He was later found dead in his car.
Another incident ended in Charles Romine’s death in 2017 near Dayton. It took two days for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to find the 71-year-old’s body after calling 911 for help. Deputy Director Rob Streck told the Dayton Daily News that operators rely on the position provided by the callers because location technology is “a kind of coin toss”.
But people who call 911 in an emergency may not be able to provide an address.
Last year in Chicago, a stroke victim, whose brain function was rapidly deteriorating, did not know the address of the hotel he was in, according to local news reports. The Chicago 911 system was unable to track down his cell phone because it was not set up to connect to the Internet for security reasons.
Even when callers know their location, operators may not answer.
In 2015, Shanell Anderson, a 31-year-old newspaper delivery woman in Georgia, drove her car into a pond and sank when she called 911. She spent her last moments of consciousness telling a 911 operator about the intersection of the pond . But the dispatch center that received the call was in the wrong county, an Atlanta TV station reported.
Anderson kept repeating his position until the rising waters muffled her, but the operator was helpless.
“Give me the address once again. It doesn’t work, “said the dispatcher.
Calls forwarded to another agency are so common that most systems allow operators to transfer calls to nearby centers.
The response to the deadly shootings in the Parkland, Florida school was delayed because 911 calls were directed to two different dispatch centers depending on whether the callers were using their cellphone or landline, a commission set up after the shooting was found. Overwhelmed by the volume of calls, the sending decreased and did not transfer others.
In Shen’s case, tracking him down was further complicated because he was using a Chinese cell phone and an American number. The number was not registered with a name or address, so the police were unable to identify his apartment number.
Shen was chasing a doctorate from New York University when he died, the school said in a statement. Previously, he completed his masters and degrees in Guangzhou, China.
“He used his extraordinary mathematical mind to help create new ways to disrupt networks of transnational criminal organizations, a truly noble cause,” said Sharkey of his student. “His work drew significant attention from government agencies to the point where it could provide insights into defining policy in the near future.”