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Durham 911 Center launches photo messaging system for Sprint customers

Posted January 19

Sprint customers can now attach photos to text messages sent to the Durham Emergency Communications Center.

— Sprint customers can now attach photos to text messages sent to the Durham Emergency Communications Center.

The center in Durham is the first in the state to offer this kind of service for Sprint customers. So as technology changes, Durham 911 officials want to stay on top of it in the name of safety.

The center handles about 1,100 calls a day. Five years ago it was one of the first in the country to offer texting to 911. Starting Thursday, you can text a picture of your emergency.

In some situations, a picture of your surroundings may allow emergency responders to get help to you faster. The photos may also help them when it comes to reporting crimes.

''When people go through a traumatic event on the scene, it's very hard for them to describe a vehicle or a person," said Jim Soukup, the center's emergency communications director. "It's not uncommon that we'll get several phone calls and they will all describe a vehicle or a person differently. So if you can take a picture of a license plate, or a car or a person  and do that safely, that could be invaluable to us making a difference."

At this point, the system is only available to Sprint customers, but officials hope other carriers will get on board.

"You select a picture," Chandra Bullard said. "We'll get a message telling us we've received multi-media, and it's been emailed to the on-duty shift supervisor."

The center wants to emphasize calling should always be the first option, as it will allow for the fastest response.

Soukup said he doesn't know how many people will use this new feature,  but if it helps one person, then it’s worth it.

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