Text-to-911 option to rollout in phases in Central Texas

Text to 911 (KXAN Photo)
Text to 911 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After years of waiting and being one of the last major cities in Texas to receive text-to-911, the service will finally be tested in Central Texas. Greg Obuch, the Director of Emergency Communications for CAPCOG, the group in charge of 911 texts in the region, says the delay is mainly due to technology issues.

“We had some network connectivity issues with the text control center that will route text calls to our PSAPs that took some time to correct. That has been resolved and we have successfully tested the texting service in our training center,” Obuch said. “Testing will begin in the next few days with all four major service providers at the 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).”

Austin police say all of their 911 call takers have already been trained to begin taking 911 texts.

“They’re all up to speed on exactly what needs to take place. We’re hoping for a push out of around mid-April,” Commander Nick Wright with the Austin Police Department says, who oversees the Emergency Communications Center.

The service will be available to anyone, no matter who your service provider is or what your cellphone area code is.

Text to 911 (KXAN Photo)
Text to 911 (KXAN Photo)

“It works just like your cellphone, so basically you open up a new text on your cellphone, you can text 911,” Cdr. Wright explains. “We request that you get very direct specific information because as we all know a text message is not as clear as spoken language, so we want you to be direct.”

The testing will begin in smaller cities like San Marcos, then Austin is hoping to begin in April.

“You don’t want to test on a larger department that has the largest amount of calls in the Central Texas region, you’d rather start slower let those calls build in that regard,” Cdr. Wright said.

Austin has one of the largest deaf communities in the nation, and the department wants to make sure all citizens can call for help.

“This is something that I think is going to benefit either the handicap, hearing impaired or the deaf community at a very, very large level, so it’s good. If everybody has it, it gives those folks a little bit better opportunity to request emergency assistance,” Cdr. Wright said.

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