New technology can pinpoint calls

Wednesday, March 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:52 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

The new mapping system employed by Columbia/Boone County dispatchers could not have authenticated an infamous autumn call reporting that a helicopter had gone down in a rural area, said Jim McNabb, director of the dispatch agency, but it would have helped them quickly pinpoint the origin of the call.

In early October, dispatchers received a cell-phone call from an area west of Columbia claiming a helicopter had crashed. Rescuers combed the area for more than two days before calling off their search.

Computers provided a latitude and longitude for the call’s origin, and dispatchers spent 45 minutes pinpointing it on a paper map, McNabb said. New software would have instantly shown the location.

McNabb said his agency was never able to determine whether the report was a hoax.

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