Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's deputy web editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When an emergency arises, calling 911 and speaking to a dispatch will likely result in the fastest possible response. But there may be situations when not everyone has the ability to make a phone call, be it because the caller is deaf or doesn't want to be heard seeking help. For these situations, texting 911 may be the next best thing. Durham County, N.C., is now the second municipality (following the steps of Black Hawk County, Iowa) to test out text-to-911 technology. For six months, only Verizon customers within range of the county's cell towers can text 911 if they're unable to call. Users are encouraged to clearly identify what their emergency is and where they're located in the first text since the communications center can't track cell phone locations. The text-to-911 technology cost just over $100,000 and was funded by the state's 911 Surcharge Revenue Fund. The pilot will run until the end of January 2012.