Wireless carriers introduce text-to-911

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 6:14 AM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

Americans send nearly 6 billion text messages per day. Most of them go to family and friends.

Recently, the four major wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile took a big step in allowing cellphone users to text 911 emergency call centers as well.

So far, only a handful of municipalities are set up to receive text messages.

"Only about 16 states have a county or parish that can take texting to 911 calls," said Orleans Parish Communications District Executive Director Stephen Gordon. "So, it's a brand new technology that's coming out."

Gordon says for now New Orleans 911 doesn't take text messages. "Different carriers do technologies different ways, so a lot of the standards or the methods of how to do it have not been established, yet. They're still working on it."

Darlene Santana at the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children says deaf people in need of help and certain domestic violence cases would benefit from text-to-911.

"It would be very helpful in an instance that they still have their cellphone with them and they need help and they don't want to be overheard or can't be overheard they could very discreetly maybe text a message to get help," said Santana. "It offers survivors another option to get into a safe place."

The FCC had previously guidelines requiring U.S. wireless carriers to support text-to-911 by the end of the year. While that deadline was met, there is no such mandate for call centers.

"Not even a deadline set out in the future," said Gordon. "But, we do want to get the capability."

Major Ronnie Hill at Jefferson Parish 911 says his call center expects to have the ability to receive and respond to text messages by the end of June.

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