In numerous reports today, searchers said they were able to find the family of the missing CNET editor by accessing data sent from their cellphone.
After getting stranded, James Kim, 35, left his car from a remote location in Oregon to get help. Although he hasn't been found, searchers were able to track down his wife and children in part after experts pinned down a cell tower that had picked up a signal from the phone.
Searchers then used a computer model to approximate the location of the cellphone. That led searchers to an area near Bear Camp Road, where Kati Kim and the children were found.
Picking up that signal was critical to the success of the search effort, said Josephine County undersheriff Brian Anderson.
This raises the question on how cellphones can or cannot help in off-the-beaten- track locations.
Consumer Reports, which released a new survey yesterday, found that one in 25 wireless callers never successfully connect or communicate with 911.
Ten years ago the FCC mandated that wireless phones be able to connect to 911, and be able to provide the 911 operator with information, such as the caller's cellphone number and location where he is calling from. The phone does this using either GPS or by gauging the distance of the caller from the nearest cell towers.
But the survey found that nearly half of country is still without 911 centers that can find wireless callers. And the National Emergency Number Association, which tracks telephone services, reported that 109 counties in the U.S. still have no 911 or E911 service at all.
In a separate survey, Consumer Reports found that 29 percent of people buying a cellphone said they are doing it for emergency purposes.