Speaking of the new “Text to 9-1-1” program, which has just been launched in Parker County, Christy Williams of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) said it’s an “interim solution to a technical problem.”
Williams, who is also chief 9-1-1 program officer for the NCTCOG system said some cell phone users, specifically those that use Verizon Wireless as their carrier, will be able to text for help in the case of an emergency in most of the county.
“It’s going to have limited location technology only servicing the southern sector, but we do anticipate full coverage as soon as it is available,” Williams said during a live demonstration on Dec. 4 at the Harberger Hill Community Center. “We are introducing this technology with Verizon Wireless
customers, they were the only carrier that was able to offer
this service in the area at this time.”
All of Parker County with the exception of
Azle can utilize the Text to 9-1-1
service with Verizon Wireless.
Azle, a part of the Tarrant County’s 911 program, will be unable to utilize the service.
She said they realized that by starting with Verizon it covered a limited amount of the county’s population but that it was a “good” way to start. That it allowed dispatch centers to have time to learn the system before becoming bombarded with texts. A fear she said has been a “myth.”
“We turned on Text to 9-1-1 in Wise County in January and in Collin County in July and in 11 months we’ve received only one real 9-1-1 text,” added Williams.
She said that because Dallas and Fort Worth do not have the service they are having a grass roots, public education campaign geared toward Parker County.
She said that two main drivers were the reason for the service, the first being for the speech and hearing impaired who had been advocating for the service at the federal level for some time. The second issue was for people who found themselves in a dangerous environment and it wasn’t safe to speak, such as in the case of a home invasion.
“It’s a interim solution, but we took the approach that anything is better than nothing,” Williams said. “There will be some challenges with the system because we will not know the exact location, just the sector, so it is important that when you text tell us your location.”
She emphasized that those who do not have Text-to-911 service will receive an immediate bounce-back message notifying the user that they should contact 911 by a voice message.
NCTCOG will be expanding service with Verizon Wireless into other counties within the program in 2014.
Williams said requests have been made to the other three major carriers - Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T - and that as soon as it becomes commercially available it will be implemented by those carriers in the area as well.
“The carriers did sign a voluntary agreement that said they will offer text to 9-1-1 interim solution by May of 2014.,” Williams said. “They will have six months to turn the system on once we make the request and they offer the service.”
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