Dispatch centers to accept 911 texts

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Starting next week people with certain cell phone providers will be able to text 911 if they need help.

The Statewide 911 Board is hosting a news conference Wednesday, May 14.

NewsChannel 15 got a preview of the new system beforehand.

The public safety community has talked about being able to text 911 for several years. However, it recently got the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC entered into a contract with phone carriers, to create the Text to 911 initiative in Indiana.

“The area that we consider to be extremely important in the state of Indiana is for the deaf and hard of hearing community who need the ability to text for emergency services, as well as for those citizens and visitors in the state who find themselves in a position where making a voice call is not possible,” said Barry Ritter, Executive Director of the Statewide 911 Board.

The dispatch center currently is only able to text out, using its newer outbound system.

“We’ve sent probably a little over a thousand texts so far, since we’ve had the outbound texting program. So, we’re using it quite a bit,” said William Bassett, Director of Communications for the local dispatch center.

That’s in less than a month’s time.

“I think there’s been a need for a while, but the technology is just now coming around that we are able to have that,” said Bassett.

Unlike a 911 call, dispatchers won’t be able to trace your location.

“It is very important that they provide their location in the message,” said Ritter.

According to Ritter, dispatch centers won’t have to buy any new technology. Instead, the state 911 board will provide the system, paid for by the current contract with its network provider.

“We’re trying to keep up with the technology for texting and other devices so it’s going to be a learning curve for not only employees but for the citizens as well on this, so we’re here for ya,” said Bassett.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-mobile and At&T will have those capabilities starting May 15th nationwide.



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