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New 911 software will give people the ability to video chat or text their emergency

It allows people who can’t communicate on a phone call, such as members of the deaf community, a way to contact first responders.

NEW ORLEANS — NEW ORLEANS -- There was a time not that long ago in the city when you had to pick up the phone and call 911 to get help in an emergency.

These days, things have changed.

You can now text to 911, and now in New Orleans, there’s another way you can reach first responders, video chat.

Tyrell Morris, Executive Director of the Orleans Parish Communications District, which runs the city’s 911 and 311 call center, said a key part of the new software is pinpointing where a caller is located.

“We can know all day what’s happening, but if we don’t know where it’s happening we can’t send help,” he said.

Monitors at call taker desks can now pinpoint where, exactly, someone is calling from, even if a person can’t speak.

“Location accuracy technology is not new. Uber’s been doing it for a while. Everybody’s had this technology for a while. For some reason, that technology has not entered the 911 space. Today, it is,” he said.

Anyone who contacts 911 by voice or text must first click on a link from the call center before they can access the video feature.

Amir Elichai heads up Carbyne, the company behind the software.

He said it allows people who can’t communicate on a phone call, such as members of the deaf community, a way to contact first responders.

“Instead of now calling and trying to explain something you can’t because you can’t speak and you cannot hear for some reason, now with Carbyne, as soon as you dial 911, you can show what is going on,” he said. “You can also chat with the call takers and dispatchers. That is saving lives.”

Morris said the text and video technology also has benefits for people who might find themselves in situations such as domestic abuse, who can’t pick up the phone to make a call.

“Now there’s a safe way to report that they need help,” he said. 

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