The Call - Spring 2012 - (Page 18)
Public safety agencies are saving lives by implementing SMS text-to-9-1-1 capabilities in their emergency communications centers.
In 2009, a woman in Waterloo, Iowa, was at home alone when her violent ex-boyfriend broke into her house. Frightened, she quietly snuck into her bedroom and locked the door. Knowing that the man would hear her if she made a phone call, she desperately and silently texted her plea for help to 9-1-1. Fortunately, she lived in the only county in the United States at the time that had the capability to process 9-1-1 text messages. The police arrived quickly and arrested the man before he found where she was hiding. Earlier that year, as part of a groundbreaking initiative, Black Hawk County Consolidated Public Safety Communications Center (Black Hawk 9-1-1 Center) successfully implemented the TXT29-1-1® service pioneered by Intrado, a leading provider of 9-1-1 technology solutions. When presented with the opportunity to pilot this emergency communications service, Judy Flores, director of the Black Hawk 9-1-1 Center, immediately recognized the life-saving potential of this service. “We knew by supporting text messaging to 9-1-1, we could meet the expectation of those who rely on texting as a regular means of communications and provide a better way for speech and hearing-impaired citizens to communicate with us during an emergency,” said Flores. Durham, North Carolina is conducting a trial of TXT29-1-1, which is available to Verizon Wireless customers in the Durham area during the evaluation period. “We’re evaluating text messaging because
it has become a common way to communicate,” commented James Soukup, 9-1-1 director of the Durham Emergency Communication Center. “The forward-thinking leadership of the City of Durham allows the area to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing consumer communication technologies,” said Intrado senior vice president, Joseph Hernandez. Currently, 83 percent of Americans own a mobile phone, and 73 percent of them send and
receive text messages at an average rate of 41.5 texts per day. That number increases to 109.5 among cell phone users between the ages of 18 and 24. These numbers also include 35 million deaf and hard-ofhearing United States citizens for whom texting is the only way to communicate via a mobile phone. The reality is that texting as a primary means of communication is only going to increase and there are widely held misbeliefs in this country that texting to 9-1-1 is possible everywhere. Of Americans polled on this subject, 52 percent said they would send a text 9-1-1 if they had an emergency.
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