The Toronto Sun
Monday, March 17, 19971997

Cell phones have fatal flaw

In emergencies, they don't show where caller is

HALIFAX (CP) -- The space-age world of cellular telephones is giving Canadian rescue officials a down-to-earth headache: How to pinpoint the location of a cell phone user who dials for help.

The explosive popularity of cell phones is steadily increasing the number of emergency calls from lost hikers, panicky fishermen, and downed pilots. "Two years ago was the first time I saw a cell phone-related case", says Ron Miller of the Canadian Coast Guard. "Last year, there were a few and I expect it to increase this summer."

Rescue officials generally welcome cellular technology because calls for help arrive sooner, increasing the chances of survival. Cell phones also provide two-way communications, unlike emergency radio beacons used on ships and planes.

But the satellite-assisted beacons allow rescuers to zero in on the location of the emergency radio signal.

With cell phones, rescue specialists have to quiz often-disoriented callers about their whereabouts.

Some cell phone manufacturers plan to offer special chips that can take advantage of the satellite-based Global Positioning System.

Copyright © 1997 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.