Texting 911: Vermonters Can Take Advantage of New Technology

By Staci DaSilva | sdasilva@nexstar.tv

Published 05/25 2014 05:22PM

Updated 05/25 2014 08:43PM


Continuing in its trendsetting ways, Vermont has become the first state in the country to have 911 texting capabilities on all 4 of the nation's top wireless phone carriers.

As Executive Director of Vermont's Enhanced 911 Board, David Tucker saw this technology coming.

Years ago, he started brainstorming how to make texting 911 possible. In April 2012, Verizon customers in Vermont were given what was supposed to be a 6-month trial.

“We were able to intervene and stop a suicide in progress and we were also able to intervene in a domestic violence situation,” explained David Tucker. And we've had further successes since then."

"I can think of several numerous examples of when that would be really helpful, if you're in a sticky situation. I'm thrilled, that's awesome,” said Allison Logan of Winooski.

And now, customers of the four leading nationwide carriers, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile can text 911 with emergencies while in the state. Tucker estimates that covers 98% of Vermonters.

“Unlike wireless phone calls where we get location information, that's not available yet for texting. So what we ask people to do is tell us in the first message where they are and what the nature of their emergency is,” said Tucker.

The technology has seen its share of skeptics. Some worry it will replace dialing. Others think pranksters will clog the system.

Tucker says he has not seen many of those issues.

“It's most useful for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or somebody's who's in a dangerous situation where if they pick up the phone and called us, it could increase their danger,” said Tucker.

“It's nice to hear of our emergency response being timely and up to date with their technology," said Logan.

Vermont isn't the only jurisdiction with texting 911 capabilities. Customers in areas of Iowa and North Carolina can also text emergencies.

Vermont State Police calls it a "great new service."

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