May 15, 2014 7:24 PM by Akeam Ashford
Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated all four major cell phone companies in the U.S. to provide the ability to text message emergencies to a 911 dispatching center.
The law requires states to comply with the FCC rule by Dec. 31 of this year, but Evangeline Parish 911 Dispatch Director said not all parishes are ready.
"Our system is an older system. It probably doesn't even have the capability to add on to it, like most dispatch centers in the state will need," Hill said. "For a small agency like us, we're looking at about $300,000 in technology upgrades."
The demand for text message emergencies came from the hearing impaired community. Hill said those with disabilities will benefit the most, but she fears some people could abuse the new law.
"There will be a lot of kinks that need to be ironed out," Hill said. "One of the problems with a rural community is we may see texts or pictures from family members of dispatchers who were in a wreck or died. We worry about keeping our dispatchers safe too."
By the end of the year, the cell phone companies will need to have the capability to send what's called a "bounce back" message.
This is a message that warns callers 911 service is not available in their area.
"You know it's emerging technology, and it's something that 911 is going to have to do to keep up with the times. Everybody is texting now," Hill said.
The FCC said widespread implementation of the text-to-911 call feature could take several years.