SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - You will soon be able to text 911 dispatchers to get help during an emergency in Tennessee.
It's an idea that's becoming a reality. Three states use the system already.
911 dispatchers stay busy answering phone calls and helping with various emergencies, but in some situations, the people who need help may not be able to talk.
That's why emergency centers across the country and in Tennessee are upgrading their dispatch centers.
"It doesn't hurt to have something else available in case somebody might need it," says Dennese Bond, who supports the changes.
Dispatchers will soon be able to receive text messages from people in need of help. Some think it's a good idea.
"If you're ever in a situation where you couldn't talk on the phone or you couldn't talk at all I feel like it would make it a lot easier to text them," adds Chase Brewster, who supports the changes.
Kingsport Deputy Chief Dale Phipps says they are in the process of switching to Next Generation 911. He says dispatchers will be able to receive text messages and even video.
"The victim or witness will be able to text just like if you and I were to text you would receive my message," Phipps adds.
When a gunman terrorized Virginia Tech in 2007, hundreds of texts about the shootings were sent by people on campus.
The technology to send those messages to dispatch centers didn't exist then, but it does now.
But in Tennessee, even if your phone shows that you can send a 911 text, dispatch centers cannot receive it.
Once they can, Phipps says it will be a useful tool.
"Pinpointing the longitude and latitude of the cell device, but it's pinpointing the tower that the cell device is pinging off of, so it may not be the exact location but it can put us in the general ballpark."
There will still be advantages to placing a call. "Background noise voice inflection, there is a lot of information that is gained that can be passed on the police department, fire department, rescue squad, what have you that is lost in an impersonal text," adds Phipps.
Phipps says the program should be implemented across Tennessee in two to three years.
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