SMITHSBURG, Md. -- First responders are offering some life saving information after recent incidents near the state line between Maryland and Pennsylvania, where cell towers can send calls to the wrong state.
Around 9:30 Sunday morning, responders from Smithsburg EMS got called to an accident on Leitersburg Pike in Washington County. As they were rushing to the scene, it was realized that the fatal crash that took the life of a 69 year old man, happened over the state line in Pennsylvania.According to James Ulrich, Chief of Operations for Smithsburg EMS, these types of calls often are sent to the wrong company. It happens when cell phone calls are routed to the nearest tower, which sometimes lands the caller in the wrong state.
"The 911 call goes to the closest tower, so the person is in Pennsylvania, but they are close to the Maryland state line and the closest cell phone tower to them is in Maryland they will be connected to the Washington County 911 centers," said James Ulrich of Smithsburg EMS.
In this case, emergency responders from Franklin County should have been called, but for some reason the tower bounced the call to Washington County 911.
"Based on where the accident was located, if that information had been known at the original time of the 911 call, we probably would have been not summoned to call," said Ulrich. "It would have been Franklin County units handling the call."
Although there is nothing you can do about which tower your cell phone hits, Ulrich says there are things you can do to save time in situations where every second counts, such as be aware of your surroundings, and look for street signs. If you are in an emergency be sure to tell dispatcher what state you are in, paying attention will help emergency responders find you faster.
"A lot of callers are not familiar with their locations especially in the case of the vehicle crash," said Ulrich "You may have someone who is travelling in the area and that is not familiar with maybe with some of the different street names, route numbers and sometimes that can also cause issues with locating the scene of an emergency."
Dispatchers will transfer your call to the correct county if for some reason the tower sends you to the wrong call center, of course that can take about 30 seconds, making it that more crucial to know exactly where you are at all times.
Ulrich also says try to use a land line whenever possible during an emergency, even if it means going to a nearby home.