Called i-1-1, an app from a startup in Clermont County hopes to improve on 911 services

Co-founder streamlines user's emergency response

CINCINNATI -- When you call 911, does the operator know where you are 100 percent of the time?

If you're calling on a landline, maybe. But not if you're calling from a cell phone.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 10,000 people die annually because dispatchers can't find them.

(For an entertaining take on the problems with 911, watch the segment below from "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.")

That's one of the problems with 911 dispatching that Global Crisis Awareness, run out of Clermont County, hopes to address. The company has created an app, i-1-1, whose main feature is that it enables a caller to contact an emergency dispatcher and request emergency services in less than 10 seconds.

How is that better than simply dialing 911?

For one thing, said the company's co-founder, Scott Boots, it gives the dispatcher a much more accurate fix on your location by using your phone's own location technology. The location technology that emergency dispatchers have is not as accurate as what your cell phone has, Boots said, which "almost always knows where you are."

The app finds the caller and gives the dispatcher an address, as well as latitude/longitude coordinates. Users can also touch descriptive icons that tell the operator what kind of emergency they have.

The latter is useful for those who don't speak English well, but also for those who can't speak because of an injury or because they are in immediate danger.

The app's other features in development include an alert that organizations could send their members in case of an emergency -- sort of like a localized Amber Alert.

Boots, a Withamsville resident, also believes he can steal some customers from the "I've fallen but I can't get up" companies that will alert 911 for you. Those services cost from $60 to $100 a month, he said, but i-1-1 could do the same thing for $25 a year.

"The revenue resources are endless," Boots said.

In the United States, there are about 2.4 million businesses with less than 100 employees. They typically can't afford surveillance cameras or other security measures, he said, and their insurance rates are consequently higher. But they could afford i-1-1.

The FCC has recognized the problems with 911 dispatching and has mandated that by 2021, cell phone service providers improve the accuracy of the location information they send dispatchers. It has also mandated that by then, 911 dispatch centers be able to accept text messages, Boots said.

That's important to Global Crisis Awareness because the i-1-1 app relies on texting technology to deliver its messages.

The company is completing development of the third version of its app, which Boots hopes to make publicly available in October. He's looking for investors and possibly someone with telecommunications experience to help him bring it to market.

Boots and his family and friends have chipped in about $53,000 so far on developing the app. He and his uncle, Frank Fent, founded the company.

Cincinnati digital development shop Zoozler is doing the development work, and the company's also taken an equity stake in Global Crisis Awareness through its subsidiary, Zoozler Tech Lab, Zoozler CEO Paul Powers said.

He hopes that i-1-1 can become a default service provider for local governments that provide 911 dispatch services, and also as a pre-installed app for cellphone service providers such as AT&T or Verizon.

Global Crisis Awareness does have competition, Powers said, from a company called RapidSOS. But unlike Global Crisis Awareness, he said, RapidSOS requires a monthly fee for its services, which he thinks most people won't want to pay.

Powers really likes Boots' passion for the product, he said. "He's driven to do it in order to save lives."

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