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Shelby County, Tennessee is home to seven municipalities – Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland, Memphis and Millington. Each of these municipalities has its own political and geographic boundaries, and most have separate fire, emergency, and law enforcement agencies.

These multiple political and geographic boundaries have a direct bearing on how the Shelby County 911 system works, especially when a call to 911 is made from a cell phone. That’s because cellular calls are often not automatically routed to the proper Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) because the wireless signals travel beyond municipal boundary lines. In many cases, a 911 caller may need to be transferred to the proper agency in the area. That is why it is imperative that anyone who calls 911 from a cell phone tells the dispatcher exactly where he or she is, and, if possible, what city/community the call concerns.

For example, in the illustration above, a person in distress on Germantown Parkway in Memphis calls 911 from a cell phone. The cell signal is routed to the closest cell tower, which is located a short distance away – but inside the Bartlett city limits. As a result, the call is routed to a City of Bartlett 911 dispatcher, who has limited information on where the caller is since the call was made from a cell phone.

If the caller cannot provide specific location details, including the fact that they are in the city of Memphis, then it is highly likely that the call could be routed to the wrong emergency response department, which means that emergency response could be delayed.