State Says Texting On 911 System Succeeds, Will Expand

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Vermont’s Enhanced 911 program is expanding its program to receive emergency texts because state officials say the first phase of this pilot project has been very successful.

Six months ago, the state’s Enhanced 911 Board created a pilot project that allows Verizon wireless customers to send an emergency 911 text.

Initially, the project was viewed as a way to provide the state’s hearing impaired community with access to the 911 system but the pilot project showed that there could be other circumstances where this service could be used. In one domestic assault case, a person texted for police assistance because they were concerned that making a phone call could enflame their specific situation.

David Tucker is the state director of the Enhanced 911 Board. He says the success of the pilot project has led to the expansion of the program to now include all Sprint wireless customers.

"Having two successful interventions, not that we ever wish these bad things happen, but the fact that we were able to demonstrate in 6 months that this can have value was very important," said Tucker. "It’s been important to use here in Vermont, it’s also important at a national level."

Tucker says the Vermont program is viewed as a model for the rest of the country

"It’s a hot topic in the 911 field all across the country because it’s a new way of providing acce3sss to emergency services. Most of the other states and counties that run 911 programs aren’t yet ready to do this," said Tucker. "We were the first state that came along and said  let’s do this on a statewide basis."

Not all wireless carriers are required to offer this Enhanced 911 texting service but Tucker says this could change in the coming months:

"If the Federal Communications Commission were to come out and either require it or strongly encourage the wireless industry to get on board we think that that would open up the possibilities of having an ubiquitous text to 911 service here in Vermont," said Tucker. "We need the carriers to all get on board."

Tucker says it’s very important for consumers to realize that the text to 911 service should only be used when a voice call is not an option.

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