911 Emergency dispatch centers not ready for texting

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Wichita, Kan. -- A new way to get in touch with 9-1-1 dispatchers is being rolled out across the country.

The four largest cell phone carriers making it possible to text your emergency to 9-1-1.

But though that's the case most emergency call dispatch centers aren't set up to receive and send texting.

"Just because they have it available on their end doesn't mean that we as a nation are ready to take text through 911," says Kim Pennington, Director of Sedgwick County 911.

Pennington says only five percent of the nation's emergency dispatch centers have the capability to receive and send text messages.

"In the state of Kansas we're working on the statewide initiative to get that (texting 911) going."

Pennington says texting 911 isn't as simple as flipping a switch.

She says, "Currently 911 trunking systems are using a 70 year old antiquated technology. Copper lines. Copper lines are going away. So what we're going to is away from those tangible copper lines and going to satellites."

Pennington says dispatchers will want to keep texing to a minimum once it is available.

"We want to limit the texting to the 'hard of hearing' community or to people who are in situations where somebody has broken into their house and they're hiding under a bed or in a closet and they can't use a voice call."

"We want to limit it. But we want you always to call when you can."

She says it's always faster and easier for a dispatcher to get emergency messages through a voice conversation rather than by texting.

Pennington says there will be three Kansas communities which will be beta testing sites for the texting early next year.

She predicts Sedgwick County's 911 Emergency Center will ready to receive and send emergency text messages late next year.

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