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Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board Launches Statewide Text to 9-1-1 Trial for Emergency Help

Date: 2012-04-19
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Six-Month Trial Period for Verizon Wireless Customers Only

Beginning April 18th, Verizon Wireless customers can send a text message to 9-1-1 from locations in Vermont for emergency help as part of a six-month trial to test the potential of this technology.

From now until October 15, 2012, the Williston Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will accept 9-1-1 text messages from Verizon Wireless customers as part of a collaboration among the Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, Verizon Wireless and Intrado.  Intrado, a Colorado based emergency communications technology provider, installed next-generation 9-1-1 software that enables text messaging in the Williston PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point).

Although there have been trials in other parts of the country, this will be the first statewide trial in Vermont to enable “text-to-9-1-1” technology using 9-1-1 digits and live call takers. The trial is being provided at no cost to the State of Vermont.

All text messages to 9-1-1 originating from a Verizon Wireless device in Vermont will be routed to the Williston PSAP, which will coordinate with the appropriate local first responders to respond to the emergency.   In order to do this, texters should include the location of the emergency in the first message.  

According to David Tucker, Executive Director of the Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, this trial is intended to examine use of text-to-9-1-1 for two types of emergency situations:  one experienced by someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing, or one where the caller might be in additional danger if someone overhears them making a voice call to 9-1-1.

“Vermont has one of the most advanced 9-1-1 systems in the country, and by undertaking this trial, we are giving deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals a way to directly contact 9-1-1 without the use of a TTY attachment to their mobile phone. Others who may be victims of domestic violence or in some other dangerous situation and might not be able to safely make a voice call to 9-1-1could also use this technology. This trial, which is scheduled to go through mid-October, is intended to explore the value of text-to-9-1-1 in these situations,” said Tucker.

Tucker explained that there are several parameters that users should be aware of before sending an emergency text message to 9-1-1. “We need to test and evaluate all aspects of “text-to-9-1-1” technology before any potential widespread implementation,” Tucker said. “We understand there is strong interest in this new technology, but we need to better understand how the current technology works and help our own operations, as well as helping Verizon Wireless and Intrado to learn from our experience before possibly rolling out this technology permanently.”

“Verizon has been at the forefront of 9-1-1 public safety innovation. We are working with the State of Vermont to evaluate the possibilities of this 9-1-1 texting system with an emphasis on its use for reliable and secure emergency communications for Verizon Wireless customers,” Christine Berberich, president, New England for Verizon Wireless said. “We’ll take the knowledge obtained from the trial to better understand the challenges of ‘text-to-9-1-1’ technology on a statewide basis.”

“We applaud the state’s vision in launching this trial”, said Dami Hummel, vice president and general manager of Intrado’s Mobility division. “There are more than 36 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in this country, and a statewide deployment such as this not only benefits the citizens of Vermont, but it goes a long way toward proving how valuable this capability is on a nationwide basis.”  

[see follow-up story, 10/18/12]

 - People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via Verizon Wireless, 4/18/12)

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