Iowa 911 call center becomes first to accept texts

Aug 05, 2009 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer

An emergency call center in the basement of the county jail in Waterloo, Iowa, became the first in the country to accept text messages sent to "911," starting Wednesday.

Call centers around the country are looking at following in its footsteps, as phone calls are now just one of many things phones can do.

"I think there's a need to get out front and get this technology available," Black Hawk County chief Thomas Jennings said.

He said 911 texting should be of particular help to the county's deaf and hard-of-hearing residents, who have had to rely on more cumbersome methods to reach 911.

There have also been several cases around the country of kidnap victims summoning help by surreptitiously texting friends or relatives, who then called 911. With direct texting to 911, they should be able to get help faster.

John Snapp, senior technical officer of Intrado, which upgraded the call center, said calling should still be the preferred way to reach 911, but is a useful complement. A lot of kids already think they can text 911, he said.

For now, only subscribers to i wireless, a local carrier affiliated with T-Mobile USA, will be able to use the service, and only within Black Hawk County. Those on other carriers will get a reply saying they need to call 911 instead.

Snapp said Intrado is working with other carriers to help them handle 911 texts as well. As a future upgrade, call centers may be able to receive photos and video from cell phones, which could help responders prepare for an accident scene or identify a suspect.

While most 911 call centers can now get a rough location for callers, that is not yet possible with texts. That means i wireless subscribers who text 911 will get a reply asking them for the city or ZIP code they're in. If the response corresponds to the Black Hawk County call center's area, the text messages goes through to an operator. Otherwise the texter is told to call 911.

The call center's operators are able to text back from their computers to conduct a conversation with the texter.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: 4.5 million smartphones were lost or stolen in US in 2013

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Carriers dragging feet on E911?

Oct 26, 2005

A number of telecom carriers may not meet next month's Federal Communications Commission deadline to implement 911 emergency call services for Internet telephony, experts tell United Press International's The Web.

Texting delays mar popularity of $50 Boost plan

Apr 30, 2009

(AP) -- A new $50 unlimited-calling plan sold under the Boost brand has been a badly needed success story for Sprint Nextel Corp., luring hundreds of thousands of new customers, by industry estimates.

Cell Phone of the Future Saves Lives

Oct 20, 2006

Researchers at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research and Department of Computer Science and Engineering are working on cell phone applications that can help keep you safer, tell you ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.