The FCC pushed states and wireless carriers to come up with plans for installing Text-to-9-1-1 capability. In response, the top wireless companies developed a software system that allows dispatchers to receive and process 9-1-1 texts. The system works on any P.C. that is hooked to the Internet. Dispatchers learned to use the new system in 15 minutes. Because it relied on free and existing resources, the cost of implementation was effectively zero. OIT’s Office of Emergency Telecommunications Systems organized the implementation and training, working with the wireless carriers, the counties and the FCC.
While the new texting capability is an important breakthrough, public safety professionals can respond faster to phone calls than to texts. A dispatcher can ask and get answers much more quickly over the phone, and dispatchers often use background noise and the caller’s voice to evaluate a 9-1-1 call. That’s why conducting the Call When You Can, Text When You Can’t campaign is important. Studies show that many young people under the age of 29 usually text rather than talk on the phone. As the school year begins, the campaign seeks to both let young people know that they can Text-to-9-1-1, and that they should follow best practices when doing so.