Arrested Developments: Keeping us safe through technology


The parents of the four children found in conditions described as “just horrendous” by our sheriff a couple of weeks ago were in court Wednesday at a hearing to decide where their children should be placed, but that court appearance might not have happened if not for the use of a technology tool that helped officers locate the children on Feb. 12.

An emergency call was placed about a family disturbance by Andrew Fabila on a cell phone that morning, about a situation between him and Paige Harkings, but he hung up with dispatchers without giving his address.

Brian Knox

Dispatchers could hear a woman yelling in the background about breaking a window, so officers were sent to check on the couple in the Newark area.

Remember that at this point, nothing was known about the kids.

In order to find Fabila’s location, dispatchers were able to use a tool created by a company called Rapid SOS, which allows dispatchers to receive data directly from a smartphone.

Emergency dispatchers have at times done something called “pinging” a cell phone, which usually means a phone is located by identifying the cell tower of the last signal the phone received. But that doesn’t always give them a good location.

The new Rapid SOS technology can narrow that search field down from a few miles to a few hundred feet, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said.

That technology was used on Feb. 12 to eventually lead deputies to the shop where the children were ultimately located and removed.

The technology’s use to find the children even caught the attention of the television news program “Inside Edition,” which interviewed Akin and others about the story earlier this week.


The city of Decatur has also introduced the Smart911 mobile app that will allow residents to stay informed of emergency updates and share safety information with 911 dispatchers and first responders.

The mobile app allows residents to create a “Safety Profile” that will be seen by dispatchers when they call 911. The profile includes any information about their household they want first responders to know, including medical information, phone numbers and even photos.

The app will also allow the city to send out targeted alerts for weather information such as tornado warnings, flash flood warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings based on their real-time location.

Residents who have registered to receive mobile alerts can view those alerts via push notifications, even when they don’t have cell phone service.

The service is offered at no cost to the city’s residents.

To download the app, search “Smart911” in your mobile app store or text “Smart911” to 67283 to receive the download link via text message.

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