COLUMBIA, Mo. - Texting could soon mean the difference between life and death.
In the last week, four major mobile service providers -Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile - gave customers the ability to text 911.
But only certain 911 centers are available to receive those texts - and none are in Missouri.
The technology is so new, even emergency officials don't know much about it yet, saying they need to do more research before it comes to Mid-Missouri.
Joe Piper, operations manager at the 911 Joint Communications Center, said it's a matter of when, not if Boone County gets this technology. But officials are still working out how.
"Some of these options can provide attributes to 911 such as location, while other options don't have it," Piper said. "Some options of the programs don't record information or the conversation, and we want to find the program that encompasses the most."
He and other officials are working to get the program to Boone County by the end of this year.
"It's a good thing definitely, it's long overdue," Piper said.
The ability to text 911 would primarily help deaf people, who currently communicate in cases of emergencies with 911 through TDD, or telephone device for the deaf.
It would also help in cases where people are held under duress or situations where talking would put them in danger.
And Piper pointed out that texts can be sent in certain areas of little service even when calls won't go through.
If you text 911 in areas where it is not available to be received by the 911 center yet, the Federal Communications Commission has regulated a kickback text sent out that lets you know the text didn't go through.
Piper wasn't sure how much this technology would cost yet since joint communications is still deciding on which program to use.
To view the full list of counties that currently have the capability to text 911 click here: http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/text-to-911-deployments.pdf.
To view more on the FCC's website about what you need to know before you text, click here: http://www.fcc.gov/text-to-911.
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