Cell carriers allow texts to 911 services

Not available in Kansas City area yet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Starting Thursday, some people around the nation will be able to text 911 for help-- but not in the Kansas City area.

For decades, 911 dispatchers have sent first responders to the millions of calls they received. Soon they'll be keeping track of text messages. All of Iowa and one county in Colorado are the closest to our area who have the service enabled  (PDF).

On May 15, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint will let customers text 911 in case of an emergency. The service is expected to benefit many people including those who are afraid to call for help.

RELATED: What you need to know about Text-to-911 (FCC.gov)

"We know that victims have that fear of calling police because they don't necessarily know how they're abuser is going to react," Kristy Baughman, the advocacy and education coordinator at the Rose Brooks Center said.
Baughman works with domestic violence survivors at the Rose Brooks Center.

"Being able to do the text instead of making the phone call could be a way to reach out for help without escalating the violence in the situation," Baughman said.

However, the nearly four dozen 911 dispatch centers across the metro are not equipped with the technology to receive text messages. Dispatchers also need additional training.

"The dispatcher is going to have to learn ‘How am I going to know when this conversation is over?' We’re going to have to develop the responses," Keith Faddis said, the public safety program director at the Mid-America Regional Council.

Emergency response officials still recommend calling 911. Each call conveys information to a dispatcher that a text message cannot.

"If there is yelling, if there's breaking glass but they don't hear anything they're going to alert the responders; that's something going on that is not a normal hang-up," Faddis said.

The agency that oversees the metro's dispatch centers hopes to have text to 911 services working by the end of the year.

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