At least 102 public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in 17 states were accepting text messages as of the end of June, an official from the Federal Communications Commission said during a recent National 911 Program webinar.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of jurisdictions adopting Text-to-911 and taking advantage of the readiness of the four major carriers to deliver text,” said Tim May, E911/NG911 projects manager for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

So far, a web-browser-based solution has proven the most popular method for text-to-911 service, followed by direct IP connection, May said. Eleven PSAPs are using their legacy TTY capability.

Maine, which initiated service through Verizon in 2013 as a trial, is receiving text messages through the existing TTY interface. At the time, the state’s PSAPs could only accept text messages from Verizon customers.

“Waiting for NG-911 implementation wasn't a good enough answer,” Maria Prosser Jacques, director of the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Emergency Services Communication Bureau, said in the same webinar. “(Using TTY) required no CPE modification. Even though we were in the midst of … a NG-911 deployment, we were able to go ahead with text to 911 and meet this consumer need.”

In Maine, two PSAPs were strategically selected to receive the text messages. Once a text message intended for another PSAP is received, the call-taker calls the appropriate PSAP and relays the information. There are 26 PSAPs in Maine.

Staff members were trained on the differences between TTY and text messages sent through the TTY interface. Verizon phones were also given to PSAP personnel, so they could practice.

Jacques said there has been no noticeable impact on call volume, aside from “a flurry” when the service was first launched. She said the most notable text message received to date was from a child reporting a domestic violence incident involving the parents.

“In the end, even though we had a next-gen system soon on the horizon, what we did prove is that it can work on your legacy equipment,” Jacques said. “There is no need to wait. This is an important service.

“We also proved that two PSAPs serving the state did not overwhelm them. Everybody feared that people would abandon voice calls for text. That has not played out at all. And we also proved that, when we transition to a different CPE vendor—even though it was on the NG 911 network—it went smoothly. There were no problems. So this wasn't just a one-off situation.”