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New technology helps Medic track exactly where 911 calls come from

Medic in Mecklenburg County has used RapidSOS for a few months, and paramedics said it's helped them in unique scenarios.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When you call 911, location and response times are critical. However, thanks to new software, Medic officials can ping your exact location during an emergency even as you move. 

"It's a whole lot more accurate," said Lester Oliva, a paramedic with Medic in Mecklenburg County. 

What used to take 90 seconds now takes one second with RapidSOS, according to Oliva.

"Time is tissue when it comes to heart patients," Oliva said. 

Now, he and others at Medic have a new tool in their first aid kit and it comes from your cell phone. 

RapidSOS is a company that has partnered with first response agencies around the country, allowing them to get your exact location from where your 911 call is coming from. 

Here's how it works: You call 911 but you don't know where you're at. The call-taker on the other end of the line can then put your cell phone number in the system and your exact location will pop up. 

"It took less than a second for us to locate her," Oliva said when NBC Charlotte tested it out with Medic. 

The system also updates the call-taker with your exact movements. 

"Every few seconds," Oliva added. "Her location, longitude and latitude."

Medic has used this new technology hundreds of times since its inception in April 2019, and it's proven to be crucial for different scenarios. 

"When they are out in the woods hiking, when they are out in a part of town they aren't familiar with," Oliva described. 

First responders were even able to pinpoint the exact location of a call coming from an island at the White Water Center. It pinged the specific island the emergency was coming from.

"10 years ago, a lot of the phones didn't even have GPS," Oliva said.

Instead of a broad area, based on cell tower pings, Oliva said this tool is the most accurate and can even pin the exact tower someone could be calling from in uptown Charlotte. It's unclear if it can specify the exact floor, according to Oliva. 

All you need is to have the latest IOS update on your smartphone, in order for first responders to use it when you call. 

Medic will only have access to your location for five minutes after the call is disconnected, just in case they lose you during the 911 call. After the five minute period, they no longer know where you're at, according to Oliva.