Text-to-911 debuts in Durham

Deltek Analyst Kristin Howe reports.

August 3, 2011 marked a huge technological leap forward for Durham, NC through the availability of the new “text-to-911” program. Durham is only the second location in the US to offer this service, which was made possible as a pilot program through the City’s Next Generation 911 (NG911) provider Intrado and Verizon Wireless, currently the only mobile provider to offer 911 texting capabilities. Citizens and visitors to Durham will have the ability to text 911 in an emergency from now until the trial period ends on January 31, 2012. Durham switched to the NG911 network at a cost of $103,500 in 2009. The pilot project is available free of charge, though citizens will still have to pay the standard texting rate of $.20 or have the messages deducted from their overall allowance.

The system was developed in an attempt to keep up with today’s constantly changing technological environment where people, particularly younger generations, often communicate solely through text messages rather than voice-based conversations. Emergency personnel caution that the same rules apply to texting 911 as do to calling and this service should only be used for those requiring an immediate response. Dispatchers have also cautioned that the best and most efficient way to contact 911 should always be through a phone call whenever possible. Texting has been designed specifically to benefit those who are hearing impaired or those in a situation where making noise further endangers them, such as someone hiding in a closet during a break-in who doesn’t want the burglar to know they are there.

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