Should 911 offer help through text messages? - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Should 911 offer help through text messages?

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With more people communicating via text message, the federal government thinks texting should be another way to call for help. (Source: MSNBC) With more people communicating via text message, the federal government thinks texting should be another way to call for help. (Source: MSNBC)

HENDRICKS COUNTY, IN (NBC) - In an emergency situation, every minute counts, and calling 911 could soon become texting 911. With more people communicating via text message, the federal government thinks texting should be another way to call for help.

The technology behind the text, however, may not be ready for some time. Texts to 911 are still the future, and not available now.

"Inevitably, we are going to see the texting," predicts Steven Cook, Executive Director, Hendricks County Communications Center in Indiana.

While everyone is accustomed to dialing the three life-saving numbers, texting could have some positive outcomes. Text messages go through faster without clogging communications.

"Might be able to save lives by getting more people with additional means of being able to get in contact with somebody, but I guess I would have a concern about being able to do it when you drive," voices one citizen.

Texting in an emergency situation might provide the discretion needed in a potentially dangerous situation.

"Say there's someone right close to you that you don't want them to see you pick up the phone and you could maybe discretely text," states one supporter of the campaign.

Another supporter of the text 911 movement says it may have helped save lives during a recent tragedy, siting the Connecticut school shooting, stating a teacher locked in a closet could silently signal help.

"We probably get about a dozen of those kind of cases a year. Where somebody is breaking into a house," reveals Cook.

But there's a downside to text 911. The infrastructure is nowhere near ready, and if you text your address in an emergency, one challenge to overcome is the duplication of street addresses in cities across America.

"There's two of them in Brownsburg, there's two in Pittsboro," Cook states as an example of one address in Indiana. 

The texter must add the city, and there's a possibility the texter may not know where he is, say out on a country road.

Also lost with text 911, dispatchers can't easily give lifesaving directions like CPR. Time would be lost setting up a phone call.

"It's all about delivering that service in a timely manner," concludes Cook.

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