It’s estimated as many as 240 million calls are made to U.S. emergency 9-1-1 numbers each year, with about 70 percent of those calls placed from cellular telephones. Two of those millions of calls have entrepreneur Paul Rauner calling for improvements in the current 9-1-1 system – improvements he says his St. Louis startup can provide.
In explaining the need for the services offered by startup SirenGPS, Rauner directs reporters first to an incident from July of 2013, when an elderly Illinois man died of hypothermia after the car he was driving slid into a pond. From his cell phone, the man called a 9-1-1 operator, who asked the man for his location. The driver, in a state of confusion, provided his home address to the operator, instead of his actual location. With first responders unable to locate the man quickly, he died at the scene. In the second instance, a frantic Dallas woman was killed during an assault while on an 11-minute call with a 9-1-1 operator. Although the victim was calling from her home, she was using a cell phone, and was unable to convey her address in the midst of the fatal attack.
While wireless phones have proven to be an important public safety tool, they also create unique challenges for emergency dispatchers and responders, and wireless service providers. Since wireless phones are mobile, they’re not associated with a fixed location or address. While the location of the cell tower closest to the 9-1-1 caller may provide some general indication of the caller’s location, that information is usually not specific enough for responders to deliver help to the caller quickly.
Rauner says the SirenGPS system will close those gaps. The company’s portfolio includes a platform called Siren 911, which uses geolocation technology to provide authorities with immediate notification of a 9-1-1 caller’s exact location, and identity. When someone calls 9-1-1, the SirenGPS web application plots the location of the individual on a map, reducing response time by as much as 40 percent. Consumers of the SirenGPS app also can fill out a personal profile, meaning emergency teams will have vital information about a 9-1-1 caller’s personal health before they arrive on the scene, again saving time.
“The goal,” says Rauner, “is to take advantage of today’s smartphone technology to get help to the scene of a crisis faster, to provide more information to responders more quickly, and to save lives.”
Another SirenGPS platform, Siren Alert, uses GPS integration to inform people in a specific area of an imminent danger.
Siren Alert also allows emergency responders to receive information back from eyewitnesses on the ground, creating real-time, two-way communication to maximize awareness of the scene.
Rauner, a lawyer and insurance industry expert, says his company has already raised about $800,000 in financing over the last two years. He says while he definitely understands investors want to see a return on their dollar, he hopes potential financial partners also look at the higher goal of SirenGPS. “SirenGPS is a business that has to make money and offer a return on investment,” he says, “but we also have a great opportunity here to create safer communities and save lives.”