Verizon Wireless customers throughout the state of Vermont will be able to text emergency messages directly into the 911 system as part of six-month trial of the technology that began this week at the Williston Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

Vermont is able to do this largely because of the IP connectivity installed last year, said David Tucker, executive director of the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board. With that connectivity, adding the text-messaging capability was relatively straightforward, he said.

Intrado hosts our 911 call system, and they’re a good company to work with, and Verizon Wireless is great to work with — they did all the heavy lifting,” Tucker said. “It wasn’t really difficult at all. We had to do some training, but it’s really gone very smoothly.

“We put in a new system at the end of May last year that is almost certainly one of the most modern next-gen systems in the country. Having that system in place enabled us to do this trial.”

Vermont represents the second text-to-911 trial that Intrado has done with Verizon Wireless, making it a much easier process, according to John Snapp, senior technical officer for Intrado.

“Once we’ve done the first one [with a given carrier], the additional ones becomes a lot easier to turn up and it becomes a lot quicker, because the all the infrastructure is in place,” Snapp said. “You’re simply turning on additional PSAPs — there’s no additional work that has to be done with the wireless carriers to turn on new PSAPs.”

Snapp said the same pattern can be followed with other carriers, with the first deployment being much more labor intensive than subsequent deployments, assuming the PSAP has the necessary IP connectivity and software components.

Handling text is “the first step to next-gen 911,” which promises to be much more scalable in terms of deploying new services in a PSAP, Snapp said.

“The goal is to make it simple for the PSAP, so they can add [applications] quickly,” he said. “It should be easy to train on, easy for them to use; it just plugs in and goes. It’s sort of like the idea of adding a new app on your iPhone. [Vermont] has kind of proven that can be the case.”

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