Community in Camden County Can Now Send 911 Text Messages

The FCC’s (News - Alert) recent initiatives are encouraging officials across the nation to upgrade their emergency systems to receive text messages by 2014. Additionally, the voluntary commitment by the nation’s four largest wireless carriers and support of public safety organizations to better protect residents is beginning to catch the attention of states and counties.

Camden County responded by becoming the first in the state of New Jersey to acquire the ability to accept 911 text messages, providing the community with yet another option to seek help. The Board of Freeholders approved the plans for the text message upgrade for the county communications center, which is responsible for routing of calls to local authorities.

"This is not a replacement to the ability to call. It's another option," said Scot McCray, freeholder, in a statement. “I think it's going to help every community in Camden County.�

The county dispatchers will be the first in the state to have the capability to read text messages, answer them, and determine the caller's location. Phones with global positioning software will allow dispatchers identify the exact location. McCray noted that 911 should be the first choice for victims as trained call takers can obtain information quickly. However, the text upgrade could prove useful as an alternative in certain circumstances.

The text service, expected to be available by July 2013, could be of immense help to those with speech or hearing problems, could prove crucial in circumstances where individuals are hiding and afraid to speak while seeking help, and also benefit accident victims who may not know their location.

Prohibitive costs have been responsible for the slow progress of the text message upgrade. The Camden County text upgrade is expected to cost about $600,000 and is part of a $35 million overhaul of the entire communications system, according to authorities.

Monica Gavio of the National Emergency Number Association in New Jersey, which advocates emergency technology advances, noted that it was a ‘big deal.’ She indicated that the association had been working on getting this ability for quite some time.

In related news, Sprint (News - Alert) Wireless customers can send a text message to 911 from locations in Vermont for emergency help as part of an initial four-month trial to test the potential of this technology. The Williston Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will accept 911 text messages from Sprint Wireless customers as the result of collaboration among the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board, Sprint Wireless and Intrado (News - Alert).

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli