Trading landline for cell phone popular but risky when calling 911

Trading landline for cell phone popular but risky when calling 911

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Jude McClure traded her landline for a cell phone five years ago, mainly to save costs.

"Oh my gosh, the money has to be one of the biggest things. Because before you know it, every time you turn around there's fees here, there's fees there," McClure said.

According to the FCC the average American family spends between $400 and $600 a year on a landline phone bill, which may be why nearly 40% of households forgo them entirely.

"You know, a phone bill that used to be 18 bucks years ago is 50 something bucks just because of all the taxes and everything else they put on it," said Kimberly O'Linn, who kept her landline so that sales people and creditors don't call her cell phone.

But there's a potentially lifesaving advantage to a traditional home phone: When you dial 911 on a landline, the dispatcher sees your exact address right away.
"Most people when they call 911 they're not in a situation where they're thinking clearly anyway. So they don't have time to think about where they're at, whose address they're at, who they're helping," McClure pointed out.

When you dial 911 from a mobile phone, the dispatcher receives the address of the cell tower the phone is using. It could take another 20 to 25 seconds for them to receive a second batch of data with your specific location. And if you're in a dense location like an apartment complex, they may not receive it at all. 

"That's kind of scary," McClure said.

"You know it's a good point, it's something I didn't think about and I live alone," O'Linn said.

Sheriff's deputies urge valley residents to register their cell phones with the county. You can associate the mobile number with an address, which the dispatcher will see immediately. 

"If you're from New York and you're out here for the summer and you call 911 from your home, you don't want the New York police department responding because you are in Palm Desert right now. So those numbers have to be associated correctly so it gets routed properly," said Capt. Kevin Vest of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

To register your phone go to Riverside County's official website:

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