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911 text messaging available in York County

YORK COUNTY, Va. (WTKR) – The first system in the country to allow people to send text messages to 911 launched Monday in York County.

Right now the system only works with Verizon Wireless customers; however, other carriers are expected to join the program by 2014.

Folks in York County, Poquoson and Williamsburg that have Verizon service can send a text message to 911 when they need help.

“It can be invaluable for those with speech and hearing disabilities and when a voice call could put someone in greater danger,” explained David Turetsky with the FCC. “During disasters when there may be network capacity constraints text messages often the only way to get through.”

York-Poquson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs says the possibilities for the new technology are endless.

“A situation where they were held hostage. Maybe they were put in the trunk of a car or anything like that,” Diggs said. “As we get video and photographs in – pictures of cars, license plates, someone who had committed a crime, an assault or a robbery.”

Terry Hall, Chief of Emergency Communications at the Regional Emergency Communications Center, says they’ve been working on the new system for about a year, running about 300 test scenarios a day in preparation for the launch.

However, Hall stresses that the Text to 911 system is meant to be a complimentary system.

“Our preference is still voice communications. This is not meant to replace voice communications,” Hall said.

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