CMPD has technology in place for 911 to receive text messages

by: Paige Hansen Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In just a few months, you could text, instead of call 911.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Captain William Boger oversees the communications division.
 
"We the equipment in place," Boger said.
 
CMPD gets about 2,500 calls into the 911 communications center each day and Boger says 74-percent come from cellphones.
 
On Thursday, Channel 9 reached out to AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon, the four major carriers who set today as a "voluntary date" to begin providing SMS text to 911 service.  All carriers will have to provide it by the end of this year.
 
A 911 agency, also called a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) must let cellphone carriers know its ready to begin receiving 911 texts.  Then, it is about implementation because taking a call is much different than receiving a text.
 
"We can’t come help you if we don't know where you're at," Boger said.
 
Unlike when you call 911, a text message doesn't provide the same location information. On the phone, a dispatcher hears a sense of urgency, and can quickly figure out if a caller needs Medic, fire or police.
 
"It might take longer to actually write out what you need, what is going on than it would to just tell them over the phone," Jon Allen, a Charlotte resident said. 
 
Cellphone carriers and 911 agencies say calling will still be the preferred method for people to call 911. 
"Hopefully it won't be that you have to text 911, that you can always call," Boger said.  "But there will be those circumstances where texting will be the only method to do that."
 
The deaf community is an advocate of text 911 technology and so is Karen Parker, who works with domestic violence victims at SafeAlliance in Charlotte.
 
"I've worked with women who have called from a closet and said, 'He's out there, I've got to get help," Parker said.  "How much better would it be if they could be texting?"

Since last year if you text 911, cellphone carriers have been required to send a bounce back message that says, "Please make a voice call to 911. There is no text service to 911 available at this time." 
 
CMPD said it hopes to start receiving 911 texts in the next six months.
 
The texting service will not work if your phone is roaming and messages to 911 will have to be sent through a carrier's text messaging service, not a third party app installed on your device.