MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - You'll soon be able to text your emergency to 9-1-1 in Shelby County. Tennessee is one of four states taking part in a trial program, scheduled to begin this spring. If the test goes well, the program could become permanent.
The trial is a partnership between the state and AT&T, which means only AT&T customers will be able to participate. Shelby County's Emergency Communications Director says this program will have a huge impact.
Right now, there is no way for the hearing impaired to communicate with 9-1-1 via cell phone. The Executive Director of DeafConnect of the Mid-South, Teresa Wilson, says for years they've been pushing for 9-1-1 texting.
"The fastest thing is a text," she said. "If you have individuals who are fully deaf or don't have intelligible speech, that is their life line."
Right now you only receive an error reply message if you text 9-1-1, but the Shelby County Emergency Communications Director, Raymond Chiozza, says that's about to change.
"We'll try it and see how it works out and get the system done, see what's working good and what's not working good," he said. "Hopefully our people will be able to participate and give feedback to the state through AT&T of the pros and cons of the system."
More than a dozen districts in Tennessee will participate in AT&T's 90-day test pilot. The trial is free for the participating counties.
"The whole language of texting will have to be thought out, with the acronyms the dispatchers and call takers will have to be trained on," Chiozza explained. "But we will want a location, that's the most important, then what is wrong."
Wilson hopes the test is successful. "They can text wherever they are, they can get help if they need it. They can communicate just like we do."
Verizon is running a trial texting program in Vermont.
After Tennessee's 90 day trial is over, AT&T plans to extend the program to other dispatch centers across the state.