911 Dispatchers Getting Acclimated to New Text Capability

Communities across the United States have been grateful for the privilege of having a 911 emergency response system in place as a convenient way to call for help. But the folks in Roanoke, Virginia now have a new way to reach out to 911 dispatchers in the event of an emergency.

The city of Roanoke has recently implemented a supplement to its emergency response system that allows citizens to send a text message to the service in order to inform them of the need for police or other first responders. The addition was established as a way of enhancing the way Roanoke’s 911 dispatchers serve the community.

It is an addition that many dispatchers believe will take some getting used to, if for no other reason than the simple fact that it is new. Many feel that the addition of incoming text messages slows down the assistance process and makes things less efficient.

Still, according to a recent mandate issued by the Federal Communications Commission, all cell phone carriers must be able to accommodate texts sent to 911 by the end of 2014. There is no requirement in place for 911 dispatch centers to implement the text technology, but officials with the city of Roanoke have opted in electively.

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As convenient as the new text capability is supposed to make things for those who need emergency assistance, the city’s 911 dispatch managers say that texting should not be a replacement for calling. They say that many times there is valuable information that can be gleaned from hearing voices and sounds in the background during a 911 call that will inevitably be lost with the texting feature. Also, location information is not provided with texts the way it is with voice calls.