New Hampshire launches enhanced text-to-9-1-1 service

  • A state 9-1-1 telecommunicator handles a 9-1-1 call at the state 9-1-1 call center in Laconia. The agency recently added enhanced technology for handling texts messages from people in emergency situations. Courtesy photo

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 9/14/2021 12:39:38 PM

An enhanced texting feature is now available for those who want to communicate with 9-1-1 for help in an emergency. The upgraded service which went in service on Sept. 6 provides a life-saving option for people in situations, including domestic violence, where it is too dangerous to dial 9-1-1.

New Hampshire 9-1-1 emphasizes that while calls are still the best and fastest way to contact 9-1-1, text messages are an option when a call may not be possible.

The augmented system provides 9-1-1 dispatchers with better location data, and also allows the dispatcher to reconnect with the caller via chat should the original call be dropped.

The new system – called Texty – allows 9-1-1 telecommunicators the ability to send outbound text messages. This can be extremely helpful for situations where there is poor cellular reception in an effort to keep the communication link open, explained Wanda Scott, information representative for the state Division of Emergency Services and Communications, which oversees the state’s 9-1-1 system. Texty also provides 9-1-1 with the texter’s cell phone carrier as well as the latitude and longitude of the phone handset. Even with this degree of precision, however, it is still important that callers text their exact address, including complete street address, apartment or unit number, and town, Scott said.

Texting can be a safer or more effective way to communicate with 9-1-1 in a number of situations, including a caller who is deaf, or in the case of a home invasion or domestic or sexual abuse.

“Someone could escape to a bathroom or go outside where the person they are in fear of won’t be aware they are calling for help,” said Alyssa Dandrea, a communications relations specialist for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “It gives them another avenue for getting help.”

Another advantage is that texts can often get through when voice calls cannot.

The benefit of texting in certain emergency instances is the reason that the coalition added a text option on its statewide crisis line, Dandrea said. This added feature has been valuable during the pandemic when the number of calls to the crisis line increased 63%, Dandrea said.

Texts that originate with the call to the 9-1-1 center can also be handed off to local police and fire/EMS dispatch centers which have the compatible Texty software.

The Belknap County Sheriff’s Department dispatch center is already set up to handle Texty calls, according to Sheriff William Wright.

“We’re up and running at the Sheriff’s Department” which handles police calls for 10 area departments on a full-time or part-time basis, Wright said. “One of my priorities when I became sheriff was to move forward with technology.”

Lakes Region Mutual Aid expects it will be integrated with the new system in the coming weeks, according to Chief Coordinator Jonathan Goldman.

He said that the enhanced location data will be especially helpful for the agency which dispatches fire and medical aid calls for 35 different departments spread across 1,800 square miles, including hundreds of miles of woods.

“It will have a higher priority for use than for a standalone department,” Goldman said.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 

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