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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

EDITORIAL – Tarrant County lags on 911 texting system

Illustration by Suzann Clay/The Collegian
Illustration by Suzann Clay/The Collegian

Emergency situations don’t always allow for a phone call, but texting can be a good substitute.

Many cities nationwide have implemented a 911 emergency texting system that can take the place of a phone conversation if a victim cannot make a call. 

A woman in Indiana was able to call, had to hang up the phone and then the emergency responder sent her a text message asking if there was a life-threatening emergency. When she replied yes, help was able to rescue her.

In his column Sept. 17, Star-Telegram writer Bud Kennedy said Tarrant County was not remotely close to putting this technology into effect.

Tarrant County 911 director Greg Petrey said they are taking a “wait-and-see” approach, Kennedy said.

Other cities in Texas, including Houston, Mineral Wells and Richardson, use the Text-to-911 system.

Tarrant County and part of Dallas County are worried about having to add extra staff and that, without hearing a voice, the dispatcher cannot put urgency to the request.

If a family hides from an intruder and has to make a phone call for 911, who’s to say that intruder won’t hear the phone conversation?

The Text-to-911 system is being carried by major cellphone providers like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The providers are on board. Cities need to be as well.

Plus, a new Federal Communications Commission regulation requires that all smaller wireless carriers also carry the Text-to-911 system by year’s end.

Kennedy said no one he spoke with could tell him how the county’s $23 million-a-year 911 agency was so far behind others when it used to be a premier operating system.

Having to make a phone call to 911 could potentially give up a person’s location, which could have been avoided had they been able to text.

People in Tarrant County who text 911 at this moment will receive a bounce-back message telling them to call 911 for an emergency.

The 911 committee needs to listen to what the people want. Texting has become too much of a social norm for them to ignore use of the technology.

Most teenagers and young adults text as the only means of communication, and older adults have picked up texting and its lingo as well.

This system in place could also save countless lives for school shootings. Students in the Virginia Tech shooting sent countless messages to 911 instead of calling and being heard by the shooter, but there was no system to receive them.

In an article Sept. 1, Dallas Morning News writer Michael Marks said the FCC’s mandate for carriers to upgrade to 911 texting has been advocated by domestic violence victims and individuals from the deaf community.

According to the National 911 Program, Marks said, it would cost the Metroplex over $5 million plus upkeep to build the system from scratch.

Most officials haven’t thought about the upgrade and how it could help citizens, Marks said.

These cities and counties need to take the technological age we live in and use it as an advantage to save lives. People send over a trillion text messages in one year, CNN said.

One of those could potentially save a life.

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