Houston Matters

How Houston’s ‘Extreme 911’ Helped An Injured Man In Scotland

We visit the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Montgomery, which answers emergency calls via satellite from all over the world.

Scotland Rescue
Rescuers in Scotland prepare to airlift an injured man whose distress signal was picked up near Houston.

Last month, a recluse living in the woods in Scotland had a health emergency. The man, who’s in his 70s, sent out a distress signal that was picked up some 4,500 miles away in Greater Houston. And help was sent and the man is recovering.

But why was his beacon picked up in Houston — not somewhere in the United Kingdom?

Well, that’s because Montgomery, about an hour north of Houston, is home to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center. It operates like an extreme 911, picking up satellite distress signals from all over the world.

The center, which is staffed around the clock, gets calls from hikers deep in the wilderness, people whose boats are sinking in the middle of the ocean, and park rangers attacked by bears, just to name a few.

Satellite Devices
The GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Montgomery, Texas monitors emergency signals from satellite phones and tracking devices like these.

In the audio above, Michael Hagerty visits the IERCC and talks with Emily Thompson about how the company works, how it helped the man in Scotland, and how this service ended up being located in our back yard.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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