With the four nationwide wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile—committed to providing text-to-911 functionality to any public-safety answering points (PSAPs) that are prepared to receive texts beginning today, some PSAPs already have taken strides to implement texting into their daily operations.

In Hamilton County, Ohio, Verizon is the only wireless carrier that has supported text-to-911 functionality in the area since the county migrated to an all-IP architecture in preparation for next-generation 911, according to Ron Bien, Hamilton County’s 911 coordinator.

“Only Verizon is doing it right now, but we’re anxiously waiting for the other big three To get on board,” Bien said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “As soon as they are ready, we will subscribe to them. We are ready and willing to take texts from all of them.”

After deploying the all-IP platform from Intrado, implementing text-to-911 capability has not been difficult, Bien said.

“Having that equipment and software in place meant that it was merely a matter of ordering the service,” he said. “So, we had to pay a small fee to Intrado to program it—that took about an hour—and then we had to work with Verizon to order it and get everything in line with their third-party carrier for text. We all got on a conference call, got it turned on, and it’s been working great ever since.”

Bien said he had heard 911 personnel express concerns that accepting emergency texts would greatly increase traffic in a PSAP, but that has not been the case in Hamilton County since the capability was introduced last Nov. 21. To date, the PSAP has received only three “legitimate” texts seeking help, including a teenage boy reporting a stolen tablet and a young girl who was “contemplating hurting herself,” he said.

“She didn’t want to make a voice call, so her mother would know,” Bien said. “We got the information we needed from her and sent an ambulance to help her out. I understand that one turned out to be very successful.”

But the most notable text-to-911 episode occurred with a call-taker who had recently returned to the PSAP, Bien said.

“There was a young girl who wanted the police to take her out of her home, because there was some fighting going on between the parents,” Bien said. “That text conversation went on for an hour and a half, but that call-taker also took 27 voice calls during that same time. So, you can multitask with [text messaging to 911] with the Intrado system—it’s very well designed.”