911 upgrade to allow texts, photos, video

911 upgrade to allow texts, photos, video

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2010 10:07 pm
By: The Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee is set to launch a digital 911 system to allow text messages, photos and videos from cell phones, though the upgrades won’t be available for 12 to 18 months.
The Tennessean reports dispatch centers have begun upgrading equipment through the state’s $25 million Next Generation 911 project, the largest overhaul of state emergency communications since 1998.
Andy Spears, director of government and external affairs at the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, said every 911 district in the state will receive at least one digital Next Generation 911 receiver.
The technology should allow dispatchers to locate cell phone users much quicker than the current analog system.
“Ultimately, we want to be able to get texts, video messages if you’re in a car accident, for example. That can help responders in terms of what to expect on the scene,” said Spears. “We’ll be able to pinpoint your exact location, which is huge for response time.”
The Next Generation 911, however, won’t use social media. Currently, it’s too difficult to monitor social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, said Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
Heidt said social networking sites were not designed to act as emergency communications tools.
“What if you get the Twitter ’fail whale’ when you’re trying to tweet 911?” he said, referring to a message Twitter users receive when the site is over capacity.
Bill Jorgensen, director of the Williamson County Department of Emergency Communications, said dispatchers are excited about the upgrade to the 911 system, but there could problems deciphering shorthand used by texters.
“We’re going to have to get trained on that language,” said Jorgensen. “Otherwise, we’re going to be sending question marks back saying, ’What?”’
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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