Iowa 911 Center is First to Accept Text Messages

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    An emergency call center in the basement of the county jail in Waterloo, Iowa, became the first in the country to accept text messages sent to “911,” starting Wednesday.

    Call centers around the country are looking at following in its footsteps, as phone calls are now just one of many things phones can do.

    “I think there’s a need to get out front and get this technology available,” Black Hawk County police chief Thomas Jennings said.

    He said 911 texting should be of particular help to the county’s deaf and hard-of-hearing residents, who have had to rely on more cumbersome methods to reach 911.

    There have also been several cases around the country of kidnap victims summoning help by surreptitiously texting friends or relatives, who then called 911. With direct texting to 911, they should be able to get help faster.

    John Snapp, senior technical officer of Intrado, which upgraded the call center, said calling should still be the preferred way to reach 911, but texting is a useful complement. A lot of kids already think they can text 911, he said.

    For now, only subscribers to i wireless, a local carrier affiliated with T-Mobile USA, will be able to use the service, and only within Black Hawk County. Those on other carriers will get a reply saying they need to call 911 instead.

    Snapp said Intrado is working with other carriers to help them handle 911 texts as well. As a future upgrade, call centers may be able to receive photos and video from cell phones, which could help emergency responders prepare for an accident scene or identify a suspect.

    While most 911 call centers can now get a rough location for callers, that is not yet possible with texts. That means i wireless subscribers who text 911 will get a reply asking them for the city or ZIP code they’re in. If the response corresponds to the Black Hawk County call center’s area, the text messages goes through to an operator. Otherwise the texter is told to call 911.

    The call center’s operators are able to text back from their computers to conduct a conversation with the texter.


    Technology is changing the world…

    d a

    I did hear a while about NY starting this sort of program.


    i wundr if theyll need a group of specially trainned ppl to read sms srthand

    not like we got the smartst ppl at the 911 centers

    …maybe you can move out there and get a job there… you seem to be pretty good at writing incoherent messages, perhaps you would good at deciphering messages also. YW Moderator-72 .


    i’ve been waiting a long time to hear that NY will have such a program! with kids these days being so into texting, i see this being extremely helpful if it has to ever be used by anyone!


    And you wouldn’t have to bother with the operator first.


    I wonder if they will be able to activate the 911 tracking on the phone like they do when you call 911. ( All phones have a feature that allows 911 to turn a GPS or other type of locator device within the phone when you call 911 with an emergency)


    [Public Safety Answering Point]

    While the only way to turn this tracking off is to shut down your phone, it is not actually activated unless you call 911. If you think this raises privacy concerns, just consider the nature of mobile phones, which are continually connecting to towers. Records are kept of every tower your phone communicates with. While it may not be as precise as true GPS, this information is being recorded any time your phone is on.

    -from some website-

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