Commonwealth Journal

Local News

June 24, 2014

911 texting a possibility

Somerset —

Pulaski Countians can text their lovers and their lawyers, and soon they might be able to text their law enforcement officers too.
As it stands, texting 911 will yield a “bounce back” message asking the texter to call 911 if they are roaming or are in an area where the 911-call-center cannot receive texts.
But Pulaski County 911 Director Lisa Gilbert wants to change all that by adopting Text-to-911.
The service would allow distressed citizens to contact 911 when they needed to be silent or when they could not get a good phone signal, which may be when they need 911 the most, according to Stringer.
But that process to get the technology is more complicated than the technology itself, and it could take almost a year before Gilbert could even start testing it.
“We haven’t got all the information on it yet,” said Gilbert. “We’ve just got the basics right now.”
The web application is freely provided by Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile and uses their networks to allow 911 dispatchers to communicate via SMS messages with citizens who text 911.
It’s that simple. And it won’t cost anything more than the connection, according to Pulaski County 911 IT Supervisor Derek Stringer.
But the process to get it, while almost as simple, takes a lot of time.
Call-centers must first request the service from the carriers, fill out and return a questionnaire and then wait in a queue to being testing the service. Stringer estimates that it could take between six months and a year before Pulaski County 911 can even begin flirting with the idea of taking calls for help via text messages.
About 100 centers are currently waiting in queue to receive the technology, and only 85 centers in 17 states have already gotten through the waiting period and are already using it.
 
Judah Taylor is a staff writer at the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at jtaylor@somerset-kentucky.com.

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