Watch John Oliver Explain Why 911 Centers are Outdated - Rolling Stone
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Watch John Oliver Explain Why 911 Centers are Outdated

“Even the Domino’s app can tell where you are, and they’ve barely mastered the technology to make a palatable pizza!” comedian cracks in ‘Last Week Tonight’ report

John Oliver took on an underreported issue during Sunday’s Last Week Tonight: poor technology in United States police precincts. In the U.S., 240 million 911 calls are made every year, but only a share of those callers are reached by the police. That’s inexcusable, said Oliver, since 70 and 80 percent of emergency calls are made via cell phones, which have tracking capabilities, he said.  

“Even the Domino’s app can tell where you are,” Oliver said,  “and they’ve barely mastered the technology to make a palatable pizza!” According to a USA Today report highlighted by Oliver, “Your chance of 911 getting a quick fix on location ranges as low as 10 percent to as high as 95 percent.”

“People making emergency calls are on the very short list of things we expect to be found 100 percent of the time,” he said. “It’s that, the clitoris and Nemo.” The comedian explored the many deficiencies in America’s 911 system – highlighting underfunded, understaffed call centers filled with outdated technology. 

The FCC estimates that “location accuracy improvements … could save approximately 10,120 lives annually.” Therefore, the agency has mandated cell carriers improve accuracy “so that, by 2021, carriers deliver a usable location for callers 80 percent of the time.” But are Americans willing to live with a four-out-of-five average? The federal government has teased the possibility of Next Generation 911, which could accept videos and texts to aid in life-threatening situations like home invasions or domestic abuse. But as of Oliver’s report, zero states have fully implemented it. 

Many U.S. cities have underfunded 911 centers with bare-bones staff, said Oliver. And states have compounded the problem by diverting 911 funds elsewhere. In a phone PSA, Oliver imagines that in the future, police officers will tell children: “By the year 2021, we will find you every time – four out of five times.”

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In This Article: John Oliver


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