Decatur adds texting 911 service; state still lags

Decatur joins short Ga. list with text message 911 options

The city of Decatur is the latest jurisdiction in Georgia to enable residents to text to 911. But it’s one of shockingly few offering the service in the state that, overall, continues to lag behind.

On Friday, Lieutenant Barry Woodward of the city’s police department demonstrated how residents can, as of Sept. 1, text 911.

“It will show up on my screen here, probably in 10 seconds,” he said. “If you’re in a situation where you can’t speak, and it’d be dangerous to speak, you can text to 911.”

And, the way he described it, the system was just as easy to implement – and cost-free.

RELATED: FCC's report to congress on next generation 911 services

“To us, there was no cost to do that,” he said. “It’s part of an FCC mandate. We already had the Internet here. The carriers had to bear the cost of being able to do this. It didn’t cost us anything.”

But few other cities and counties have followed suit. Decatur becomes one of five jurisdictions in Georgia to have registered 911 texting with the Federal Communications Commission. It joins Coweta County, Floyd County, Paulding County, and the city of Alpharetta. Cobb County hasn’t registered with the FCC but has offered it for a year.

By comparison, the state of Indiana, despite having a population of 3 million fewer people than Georgia, has 91 jurisdictions with next generation 911.

“It’s provided to everyone to do,” Lieutenant Woodward said. “It’s up to the individual agencies to provide it.”

The FCC actually requires cell phone carriers to provide this option. But Georgia has remained toward the back of the country in mandating involvement. The latest FCC map shows it as one of six states with no plan for next generation 911.

So it’s on agencies like Decatur to move forward on their own - on what Lieutenant Woodward calls a vital option.

“The biggest point we want to make is, ‘Call if you can. Text if you must’,” he said.

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(© 2016 WXIA)


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