Local News

Durham 911 takes text messages

Posted August 3, 2011

— On Wednesday, Durham will become the first city in the state where residents can use their cell phones to send a text message about an emergency to 911.

If they can't make a phone call, Verizon Wireless customers can text messages of up to 160 characters to 911. Dispatchers need to know the location and nature of the emergency.

"Texting does have its purposes and its place where it can make a difference," said James Soukup, director of the Durham Department of Emergency Communications.

Durham city leaders said the more methods police and firefighters have to fight crime and respond to emergencies, the better it is for everyone. Text message Durham 911 Center You can text Durham 911 center

The Durham 911 Center recently finished an equipment upgrade and is expected to have the text-messaging system running Wednesday.

The trial run is limited to Verizon Wireless customers, but plans are to expand it to other carriers and to add picture and video services.

"Instead of people having to describe a suspect to us, they can take a photograph of him or the license plate of the car and send it to the 911 center, and we can send it out to computer terminals and the police center as well," Soukup said.

Police said that texting should be used only when calling 911 isn't an option.

43 Comments

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  • batricia1 Aug 3, 6:45 p.m.

    so we are going to take dispatchers that have a tough time talking somtimes and give them something else to do lol this should be fun

  • ncmedic201 Aug 3, 5:43 p.m.

    I think this is a great idea. During the tornadoes, it was impossible to get a call out on the cells but it was possible to send and receive text messages. During times like that it could also benefit people who are in need of help.

  • terribletaste Aug 3, 5:28 p.m.

    If any city needs more ways to contact the police, it'd have to be Durham!

  • Reader X Aug 3, 5:22 p.m.

    Question... what if someone is driving and see's something happen and texts in a 911 emergency... won't they be breaking the law they're driving and texting?????

    Not if you can't speak or don't have a voice- just pull over first.

  • fourfivesix Aug 3, 5:13 p.m.

    @teleman9111, also, while yes you can use a trac phone anonymously as long as you pay for it with cash, it can still be located just like any other phone. if you throw it away/part with the phone, then that's a different story.

  • fourfivesix Aug 3, 5:12 p.m.

    @teleman9111, i was told that text messages actually use the same part of the network as voice calls, not the data/internet part. so if calls are locatable, why not texts?

  • teleman9111 Aug 3, 2:54 p.m.

    But couldn't they do this with a 911 call too? How is this different? vanc

    There is a huge difference because on a phone call you get a general vacinity as to where the caller is through enhanced 911 and tower locations, there is no possible way of knowing where a text is originating from. It will be interesting to see how the first 1000 "I just killed someone" or "I wanna kill myself" and then nothing else calls are handled. Remember you can by a trac phone anonymously that can never be traced back to anyone.....

  • Coach K is still GREAT Aug 3, 1:33 p.m.

    Question... what if someone is driving and see's something happen and texts in a 911 emergency... won't they be breaking the law they're driving and texting?????

  • Retired07 Aug 3, 1:09 p.m.

    Too cute for me. Too many "maybes" when texting especially with Verizon. I want to hear a voice assuring me someone is responding to my emergency. Great if you are a gambling person???

  • bill0 Aug 3, 1:06 p.m.

    What a stupid idea. Why can't people just use smoke signals to contact a neighbor and have their neighbor ride a horse into town to fetch the sheriff?

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