Kansas Not Yet Prepared for 911 Text Messaging

New technology is changing the way 911 will handle your phone calls. By the end of the year, people can call and text their emergency.

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WICHITA -- New technology is changing the way 911 will handle your phone calls.

By the end of the year, people can call and text their emergency.

The FCC recently ruled that all cell phone providers must not only enable their users to reach 911 via phone but also by text message, but the state of Kansas is not prepared for that move, said Kim Pennington, director of Sedgwick County Emergency Communications.

"Throughout the country, only 2 percent of 911 call centers have the technology to receive text to 911," she said.

To prepare for the change, Pennington said the State of Kansas will likely collaborate on a plan. It will likely go into effect by mid-2015. This will help the state save money and make for a smoother transition, she said.

Until then, the county is creating an alternative. They will likely use voice-path trained dispatchers to answer those calls. Eventually, the center may train differently. She worries about a learning curve.

"The language that's used in text, and it depends on your generation, it varies greatly," Pennington said. "And if I have someone traveling through Sedgwick County from the East Coast, do they use the same abbreviations as the Midwest."

Yet, Pennington notes that the move will significantly help communicating with the hearing impaired and those who are in life-threatening situations.

"In that case, we want you to text, but again. Call when you can, text when you can't," she said.


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