Durham Communications Center Continues Text to 9-1-1 Service (8/6/12)
After a year-long trial period to gauge the effectiveness of the new text-to-9-1-1 technology, the Durham (N.C.) Emergency Communications Center and Verizon Wireless will continue to offer this technology for emergency help to Verizon Wireless customers. The center has received only one text to 9-1-1 since the trial began a year ago.
Since August 2011, Durham residents and visitors who are also Verizon Wireless customers have been able to send a text message to 9-1-1 as part of a trial to test the potential of this new technology. After reviewing the trial data, the center and Verizon will continue to accept emergency text messages.
According to James Soukup, director of the Durham Emergency Communications Center, this texting technology is still specifically designed for two types of emergency scenarios — to help potential victims who don't want to be heard making a 9-1-1 voice call, as well as for deaf or hard-of-hearing residents who may be unable to speak to a telecommunicator.
Soukup highlighted several parameters that users should remain aware of before sending an emergency text message to 9-1-1. "There can be limitations to sending a text message, and we want Verizon Wireless customers to keep these in mind if they send a text message for emergency help," Soukup said.
• Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option. It can take longer to receive a text message because someone must enter the text, the message then goes through the system, and the 9-1-1 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back. Picking up the phone and calling 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.
• Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative because the Durham Emergency Communications Center will not be able to access the cell phone location or speak with the person who is sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
• Customers must be in range of cell towers in the Durham County, N.C., area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the communications center.
• Texts sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
• Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. Any text message to 9-1-1 will count either against their messaging plan or be charged at 20 cents each.
• The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or EMS.
The text-to-911 technology is part of a collaboration among the city of Durham, Verizon Wireless and Intrado, which installed next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) software enabling text messaging between the center and Verizon Wireless customers at the Durham communications center in 2011.
The trial was originally extended beyond the original end-January deadline to April 30.
The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International released a white paper called "Text Messages in a PSAP Environment" July 30.
Your comments are welcome, click here.
Copyright © 2000 - 2013, Pandata Corp., All Rights Reserved.