Text messaging technology has been around for years, but if you are in an emergency situation only one 911 call center in Iowa has the technology to handle texts, and they just got it this month. Now New Hanover County Emergency Services is taking steps to let your fingers do the talking when you can't. According to CTIA, the wireless association, cell phone users have sent more than one trillion text messages since the technology became available. None of them went to 911 call centers, but that could change in the near future. “Texting is a feature that's out there and it's time we start using it in 911,” said 911 communications manager Debora Cottle. The New Hanover County 911 call center is upgrading its phone lines and partnering with an emergency communications company called Intrado to bring text messaging to emergency services. If all goes according to plan, emergency texts could be available within the next 12 months. “It will be another means that they can get to us quicker,” Cottle said. With the service, 911 operators could use cell phone GPS systems to locate the caller, receive pictures and video, and improve communication with hearing and speech impaired callers. “Somebody can text in an emergency, not only a hearing impaired person, but if somebody was in danger and had to be quiet they could text it in,” added Sheriff Ed McMahon. Cottle added, “Well sometimes you can't talk on the phone. It may be a domestic, it may be a situation at a school where something bad has happened a hostage situation.” For local law enforcement, making emergency texting available to the public could improve communications with a younger generation. “You see them texting all the time rather than talking on the phone. So it might be a more natural way for the youth to be able to be more comfortable in reporting crimes even,” McMahon said. Helping improve emergency services one character at a time.
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