It's an option that some believe should have been available a lot sooner. Others, meanwhile, believe it's about as unnecessary as it gets. But regardless of what side of the debate each lands on, the option to send text messages to emergency 911 channels will soon be available in Surry County, North Carolina, according to reports from Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable News. But along with this also comes some clear uses for such a service, uses that may well save lives.
The same channels that allow users access to text messaging services, meanwhile, will also allow for other forms of communications as well. Users will be able to send still photos or even video through the same channels, and 911 dispatchers will be able to see at a glance exactly what's going on at the time. The technology required to make this happen, meanwhile, is expected to be installed and online within the next couple of months, so by the time Labor Day arrives, text messaging in Surry County should be a reality.
There are, by some reports, some issues accompanying this development, particularly in terms of passing calls between Surry 911 and the Elkin Police Department. Surry 911 currently routes emergency calls within the Elkin town limits to the Elkin Police Department, but no one's quite sure if the text messages, videos and still photos can be routed at the same speed, or if valuable seconds will be lost as a result. But reports suggest that the Elkin Police Department is eager to see this put in play, and with good reason.
Perhaps the biggest reason that police—and individual citizens alike—are eager to see different 911 contact methods is the time savings involved. With a text message, a reasonably complete package can be sent to 911 dispatchers and an appropriate response can be sent out in a more rapid fashion than can be delivered by voice. Better yet, potentially, the text message can be delivered in comparable silence, a development that can be extremely valuable in some situations. When a user needs to be hiding from, say, a thief in mid-ransack or a potential serial killer, being able to get a text message out to 911 from a very quiet hiding place could be the kind of thing that saves lives. Throw in the benefits to police and emergency responders of being able to see the incident in question as expressed by video and still photo transmission and the whole thing makes even more sense.
The Surry County move to bring in text messaging for 911 transmission is likely to prove a smart idea in the end, and the kind of thing that will save lives and property in the long term. Only time will tell just how well it works out, but it's hard to pass up a concept that succeeds quite so well. The first person whose life is saved by this, or the first time a house is saved from burning or the like, the service will be sufficiently welcome that the investment's value can't be questioned.
Edited by Alisen Downey