MASON CITY, IA – One thing that we can count on is that technology is constantly changing.
Minnesota and Iowa are two states leading the way when it comes to a new technology that will change the way emergency situations are reported.
We’re taught from a very early age to call 911 if we’re ever in an emergency. But that norm might soon be changing.
“The Next Generation 911 will allow for texting to happen from a cell phone or a Smartphone to the dispatch center,” says Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler.
That service is not available quite yet, but as we’re learning both Minnesota and Iowa are preparing for it.
“We’ve actually ordered our equipment for the Next Generation 911 so we’re going to be ready by the end of this year for that technology when it gets to that point,” adds Sheriff Kindler.
In Cerro Gordo County, they’ve already laid most of the fiber for the technology, and expect it to be a reality as early as next year.
“If you’re unable to talk for any reason if you’ve been assaulted and you’re just not able to call 911 you’d be able to,” explains Heather Hahn.
Heather is the communication supervisor for Cerro Gordo County and knows there are many emergency situations when texting instead of calling, could save lives.
“Domestic things where there may be assault happening and they feel if they get on the phone they might be in more trouble it would be very helpful for people like that to send a quick text,” she adds.
While law enforcement officials in both Minnesota and Iowa agree the new capabilities would have pros, they’re also aware of the possible cons.
“Conceivably it could be that we get errant text messages coming in requesting a 911 service and it’s not actually necessary,” says Kindler.
“It’s going to change the way the information is coming in obviously, with dispatchers right now they’re able to listen to voices and kind of judge the situation and it’s going to be a lot different coming in text,” adds Hahn.
Sheriff Kindler says the Next Generation 911 service is a big investment, but it’s paid for with service fees that are on your cell phones and land lines now.
Also, it’s important to remember that texting 911 is not an option quite yet.
So if you are in need of 911 services you should still pick up your phone and dial the old-fashioned way.
The Federal Communications Commission expects that everyone around the nation will be able to text 911 by May of 2014.