Can't call? Now text 911 in emergencies - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Can't call? Now text 911 in emergencies

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BOSTON (WHDH) - You can now text '911' in case of an emergency as the nation's four largest carriers have agreed to offer the service.

"It will benefit those who are in situations where it's just simply safer to text than it is to talk," said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association.

Richard Ray, compliance coordinator with the American Disability Act, says he understands this need all too well. A few years ago, he had chest pains while driving. Luckily, he had a friend with him to call 911.

"It has been long overdue, particularly within the deaf, deaf-blind and speech disability community," Ray said.

The service is available, for example, in Durham, North Carolina where emergency operators are now trained to respond to texts.

"Texting can go through at times for a voice call that cannot," said James Soukup, emergency communications director in Durham. He added, however, that texting isn't a substitute for calling and that people should still call if they can as it's the quickest way to get in contact with dispatchers.

It's not available in all areas or with every wireless provider. Right now it's only available in Iowa, Maine, Vermont and select counties in 13 other states, but officials are hoping it'll be more widely available by the end of the year.

"I would hope that the 911 community across the country would be able to move quickly on this and have this done within a couple of years nation-wide," Fontes said.

The service could help greatly in situations where it's dangerous to make a call, like hostage situations or when people think there is an intruder in their home.

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