Text messaging E-911 increasing in popularity

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Years after the Virginia Tech massacre,  the Federal Communications Commission said there needed to be changes nationwide to 911 emergency systems.

They are changes the City of Jonesboro is already making.

"I think it's got some significant advantages and I think we'll probably see quite a bit more of it in the future," said Jonesboro Police Chief, Mike Yates.

It's something Jonesboro's E 911 center is already using.

"I can see it as being a great tool," said Yates.

"If we could implement this technology and save one life why not do it," said E 911 Director, Jeff Presley.

Late last year, Presley announced Jonesboro Dispatch would be the first in the state to offer a texting feature to reach E-911 dispatchers.

"I think within the next few years, you'll see this product explode all over the United States," said Presley.

Something that, according to an ABC News report, the Federal Communications Commission would like to see happen.  In fact, the report says last year the FCC pushed for a campaign to overhaul  E-911 systems.  They are changes that would allow for those in need to text 911.

"I think within the next few years, you'll see this as a standard of care for 911," said Presley.

Presley says while voice 911 is the primary route of reaching dispatchers, texting 911 is an option when it might not be safe to call or talk out loud.

"There are features that we're looking at adding hopefully within the next year--streaming video, photo's," said Presley.

Presley says a number of private donors helped fund this safety feature for Jonesboro Dispatch.

The report cites a lack of funding may keep other cities and towns across America from putting it in place.

"I think there's a lot of interest in it.   I think there's a lot of departments that want to go that direction.   Quite frankly in the next few years I suspect it's going to be almost a requirement to do business," said Chief Yates.

According to the FCC, of the roughly 240 million calls into 911 centers nationwide each year, a whopping 70 percent are made by cell phones, which can take pictures, capture video and text.

The United Nations' International Telecommunications Union say roughly 200 thousand text messages are sent every second.

If you need to reach Jonesboro Dispatch via text, dial 870-882-0911.  Presley says it's a number you need to save in your phone.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.