News : Authorities Hope to Launch Text-to-911 Technology
North Scituate, RI, USA, April 1, 2015 -- The Rhode Island Department of Public Safety's 911 call center is trying to increase communication with the public in case of an emergency.
Right now, the center can only receive voice calls for help.
But, since texting is so common, emergency officials want to use it to their advantage.
At the center in North Scituate, computers are lined up side by side. Live traffic cameras operate 24-hours to make sure calls for help are answered.
Emergency calls from Rhode Island are transferred before being dished out to local dispatch centers.
NBC 10 News was able to test the system to see how it works. A 911 dispatcher pinned a call from inside NBC 10's Cranston studios in a matter of seconds.
Yet, as noted, the Center is optimistic that the power of the text message will enhance the way they work.
"In the future, we're trying to get next generation 911 equipment," said Gregory Scungio, co-director of Rhode Island's E-911 Emergency Telephone System. "So, if one can't convey the nature or location of their emergency, they can text us a message and we can act on that."
If there is a fire in a home or an individual is stuck in a snowstorm, the victim's first thought is to call for help. For those who can't speak or have trouble hearing, they may soon be able to text words like "PD" for Police.
"For example, if someone who is a hostage or suffering from a domestic assault, they can't necessarily speak to us," said Scungio, also noting that it's important for people who cannot convey the location of their emergency because of a medical episode.
In February, a girl was kidnapped in Providence. Police pulled the car over and she was able to tilt her phone to police writing, "Get me out the car."
Massachusetts has the "Silent Call" procedure. Citizens can call 911 and press numbers to indicate particular emergencies.
While there is still no time frame when the system will be brought to Rhode Island, authorities are urging everyone to still call 911. When it is implemented, they said people should use it as a last resort.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Rhode Island Department of Public Safety:
The Rhode Island Department of Public Safety is one of the newest departments in Rhode Island's entire government. Composed of the Rhode Island State Police, the Division of the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal, the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy, the E 9-1-1 Uniform Emergency Telephone System, the Rhode Island Capitol Police, the Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs, the Department of Public Safety Central Management Office, and the Public Safety Grants Administration Office. The department is responsible for the administration of all police and public safety affairs for the State.
Published: Thursday, April 2, 2015