Text-to-911 service possibly coming to Yakima County this summer - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Text-to-911 service possibly coming to Yakima County this summer

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UNION GAP, WA - Suncomm Communications the 911 service provider in Yakima is taking one step forward towards its next generation of services. Text-to-911 is the first that they hope to have up and running by this summer. 

The new texting service will allow people who are in dangerous situations to text 911 for help from their cellphones. Brad Coughenhour, public safety and communications manager for Suncomm in Union Gap said that the service should only be used when some one in danger can not talk over the phone. 

"What were concentrating on is those people that may be in a situation that precludes them from speaking or if they are deaf or hard of hearing," said Coghenhour. 

Suncomm recorded that between 270 and 300 people attempted to text 911 for help last year alone. Currently, there are eight different counties in the state of Washington that are using the texting service. Although the new texting service will give those in need a new way to get help, Coughenhour said that it will limit call takers because they will not be able to hear someone's voice or, what is going on in the background.

"Can I hear noises, can I hear the inflection in the persons voice, can I calm them down, how do I calm a person down through text messaging," said Coughenhour.

When using Text-to-911 the first thing that call takers will ask is if the other person texting can call them. Through a call 911 can figure out the location of a person, but through text the location will be harder to track and it will require the person who is texting to include their exact location in the message. 911 call taker William Blomberg said that one of the most important things will be educating the public on how to use the new texting service properly.

"It is going to take some education to the public to now when is the best time to use it and when not to," said Blomberg. "It should only be used when they are not able to talk to us because as call takers we depend on what we hear." 

Next week Suncomm will be meeting up with different vendors to decide which software will be used for the Text-to-911 service.