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Texting 911

Updated: Friday, August 22 2014, 09:18 PM CDT

WICHITA, Kansas – – At the beginning of the month, the FCC voted to require text message providers to enable people across the country to text to 911 in case of an emergency.

This is the first step in the development of the next generation 911 technology.

Lieutenant Joni Hambrick with Sedgwick County 911 has been manning the phones for 13 years.

Hambrick says adding text messaging is something that could to be beneficial, especially for the hearing impaired.

“They can text us directly and we can just get the information that much faster, instead of having them assign it to the interpreter and than the interpreter give it to us,” said Hambrick.

Right now, Sedgwick County 911 Director Kim Pennington says the technology is in its early stages.

“Only 2-percent of the 911 centers in the United States have the technology to receive text to 911,” said Pennington.

Pennington says the state is going to approach implementing the text to 9-1-1 on a unified front.

“You don’t want it to be patch work to where you come through Wichita and you can text, but you go into Andover and you can’t.” said Pennington.

By doing the change across the state, its a plan that should also prove to be cost effective.

Before all the hardware is put in place to handle this change, Pennington says they’ve got some solutions to handle text calls in the interim.

“One of those solutions is to receive a text call over a voice line and to use our telecommunication device for the deaf, our TDD, to process that call,” said Pennington.

Pennington says dispatchers are already trained on how to handle calls on TDD devices, similar to what will be used when text to 911 is put in place with the next generation technology.

She says the only snag would be deciphering the various abbreviations people might use when texting to 911.

Pennington hopes to have all the technology and hardware fully operational midway through next year.

Texting 911

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Washington Times