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911 call center in Iowa is first in country to respond to text messages

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911 call center in Iowa is first in country to respond to text messages
Here's a first for you. The emergency call center in Black Hawk County Iowa is now the first in the country to accept text messages as an emergency call. "I think there's a need to get out front and get this technology available,"  County police chief Thomas Jennings said. He continued by saying that the technology should be helpful to those residents in the county who are deaf and hard of hearing. Calling 911 is still the preferred way to get the word about an emergency out to the authorities, according to John Snapp, senior technical officer of Intrado-the company that upgraded the call center in Iowa to accept texts.

Right at this moment, only subscribers in Black Hawk County to i wireless, a local carrier affiliated with T-Mobile, can use this service. Because text messages will not give a location of origin to those at911 call centers, a reply text is sometimes necessary asking for thecity or zip code where the emergency is happening. If the answer is alocation within the county, the text message goes through to anoperator who can send and receive text messages. Otherwise, the person with the emergency is sent a texturging him to call 911.

Intrado is also working with other call centers on upgrading to accept text messages. In the future, the company says that photos and videos will be accepted to summon help and that pictures or video can help responders know what to expect when responding to a call, and can also help identify possible suspects in a crime. Already there have been some cases in the U.S. where a kidnap victim was able to secretly text a message to summon help. The whole idea behind texting emergency calls is to speed up response time.

source: AP via EngadgetMobile

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