Texting 911 may be coming to Utah system

By Pat Reavy
Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY — The ability to text or send pictures and videos to 911 emergency dispatchers may be coming soon.

The executive director of the Valley Emergency Communications Center told a legislative interim committee Wednesday that the next generation of 911 is coming.

The current 911 system, built in the 1970s based on landline telephone networks, has become "increasingly obsolete and can't meet the expectations of the devices people use," William Harry told the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee.

There have been some upgrades over the years to account for the increased usage of cellphones, he said. But he compared those fixes to "putting a square peg in a round hole."

Approximately 29 percent of households use wireless as a primary communication device, Harry said, and 75 percent of all 911 calls come from a wireless phone.

Last year, Americans sent 2.13 trillion texts.

First responders rely on receiving as much data as they can, as fast as they can, he said.

Part of making the new generation of 911 work statewide would rely on all the local service providers, Harry said.

He proposed getting a task force together of all entities who could be involved in making the new generation of 911 work.

Copyright 2011 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

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