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Ask The Times: Texts to 911 not available in Hall County
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If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

Can you send a text or picture to the Hall County 911 Emergency Communication Center? How about other 911 Emergency Communication Centers across the country, maybe in bigger cities?

Hall County’s 911 director, Gail Lane, said residents will not be able to text 911, even after the county switches to a new emergency phone system, Next Generation 911, by Dec. 31.

Georgia only has two prepared Public Safety Answering Points, which are call centers responsible for answering emergency calls, that provide this service. One is in Alpharetta, the other in Dallas.

“If it’s within our area, we are going to get it,” said George Gordon, Alpharetta’s Department of Public Safety executive officer. “There are so many variables involved. The weather, the terrain, where the person is when they send it in, if they are in a car moving from location to location.”

Alpharetta has had text-to-911 since late 2014, Gordon said.

“The state of Georgia will need to build a statewide (Emergency Service Network) for all PSAPs in the state to join,” Lane said. “Then and only then will any PSAP who has upgraded their emergency phone system to Next Generation technology become a truly IP-based network and have interactive capability, receive text-to-911 messages, videos or pictures.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission website, all wireless carriers should be able to support text-to-911. Of course that only works if the PSAP is prepared to receive texts. The FCC expects that more areas will be able to provide this service over time.

Nearby states like North and South Carolina, Florida and Alabama have several areas where the service is ready to go.

Lane said Hall County is attempting to find an interim solution to at least allow basic text messages.

Text-to-911 should never be used in place of dialing 911 whenever it’s an option.

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