Free, Life-Saving USNG Browser App to Provide Exact Location of 9-1-1 Smartphone Callers During Emergencies; Universal Mapping Grid Also Provides Interoperable Reference Tool for First Responders

911call-thumb-240x180When faced with a major emergency – getting lost in the wilderness, trapped in a collapsed structure, or pinned in a vehicle that has plunged into a canyon – most victims would likely reach for their smartphones and call 9-1-1 for help. The problem is that unlike landlines, it is nearly impossible for Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs) to determine the caller’s exact location.

The geo-location problem involving cell phones is a difficult issue to solve in the short-term, since most solutions require changes to the 9-1-1 system and updates to cellphones.  Despite the common belief that automatic tracking apps will resolve this problem, these services can be unreliable and off by miles, as noted in an article “9-1-1 Caller Location Solutions,” published by the US National Grid (USNG) in Florida.Capture

USNG has the ideal solution to ensure smartphone callers can get help “right now, today, this minute” using its national standard coordinate system.
9-1-1 callers can open the USNG mobile applications on their smartphones – either or the original – and communicate their grid location to PSAP operators. With, callers can also switch to other coordinate formats, including UTM and Latitude & Longitude, to help first responders locate their position.

These applications may save your life one day – or your loved one – if faced with a major crisis. Read more below to learn how it works or go directly to 9-1-1 Caller Location Solutions.


USNG is a universal map index, derived from the military grid system, which provides user-friendly position referencing on gridded paper and digital maps. In 2011, USNG was officially designated as the federal standard geo-referencing system for ground search-and-rescue (SAR) operations.

USNG was fully integrated into Mission Manager with the help of Al Studt, who serves as a Lieutenant with Canaveral Fire Rescue and a member of the Florida Task Force 4 (FL-TF4) Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.

A renowned authority on the grid, Studt is also a USNG instructor and author. He uses Mission Manager to determine USNG coordinates during training drills and real-life emergency operations, including search-and-rescue operations and natural disasters.


Over the past few years, Studt and the USNG team have launched a successful grassroots effort to promote the national grid through aggressive social media campaigns, on-site training and classroom presentations. Their goal is to improve interoperability and efficiency among first responders nationwide, and educate the public about its availability to help save lives.

Among his outreach efforts, Studt presented a USNG briefing at the FL-TF4 Annual Meeting held December 2105. The 12-minute presentation is available on YouTube at

In addition, the Iowa Task Force 1 (IA-TFI) produced an educational USNG video module as part of its 5-Part Search Video Series video geared to the Iowa’s First Responders.



In its blog post 9-1-1 Caller Location Solutions, USNG describes how to use the web-based tools on your smartphone:

OPTION 1:  The site opens quickly for new users and once loaded will function without internet connectivity. This is rare for a website to function in a browser without internet, but it does – and that is the advantage to the user.

OPTION 2: This is the original and has been described in this article: 9-1-1 cell phone callers can provide location:


Courtesy of, will first open onto a blue screen that shows the national standard coordinate system, US National Grid. The caller can read the coordinates and the accuracy value to the PSAP call taker.

The PSAP call taker should be able to plot these coordinates in seconds via their Computer Aided Dispatch software, other vendor software or webtools such as GMap4 or Mission Manager.

Initial display of for location: 17R NM 1749 4748

As the PSAP call taker, at their option, can ask the caller to switch to other coordinate formats if US National Grid is not yet primary within their PSAP.

The options of UTM and Latitude & Longitude follow; all the user has to do is depress the upper left button [Next format]. The color coding is intentional, the PSAP can refer to the screen of their choice by color.

  • The second display screen; UTM
  • The third display screen, Lat/Long in DD.dddddd format
  • The last display screen, Lat/Long in DD-MM.mmm format




Finally, for this example, where is this location? Using GMap4 and Mission Manager, here are the map plots:


Mission Manager:

This is the original USNG app for mobile phones.

This is the original USNG app for mobile phones.


  • Smart phones must have GPS ON for or any GPS app to work properly.
  • It is understood that some 9–1–1 callers will be unfamiliar with their phones and/or too stressed and will not be able to complete the opening of any website during the call. However, many callers, especially those not directly involved in the the 9–1–1 call will absolutely be able to do it

Al Studt conducts a training session on how to use the USNG mobile applications.


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