State launches text-to-911 service

HONOLULU — A 911-texting service is being launched for the state of Hawaii.

“The text-to-911 service provides practical mobile emergency communications,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at press conference Thursday. “This can be important to the disadvantaged community, the disabled, deaf and hard of hearing. Hawaii is proud to join six other states that have deployed this service across the country.”

Text-to-911 can support plain text Short Messaging Services (SMS) messages only and is limited to 160 characters per text. Pictures, videos and emojis currently cannot be processed. In addition, callers must have active wireless service including a text or data plan, and the device’s location service must be turned on.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, Hawaii joins New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Indiana, New Jersey and North Dakota as states where text-to-911 is available statewide.

The service, which will be available where mobile service can be accessed, is made possible through funding for the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). The Enhanced 9-1-1 Fund was established in accordance with Act 168/SLH 2011 and consists of monthly enhanced 911 surcharge collections imposed on each communications service connection, according to the Department of Accounting and General Services.

The rate of the surcharge is 66 cents per month for each communication service connection.

E911 Board chair and Hawaii County Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Ferreira reported a total cost of over $3-4 million dollars per local area public safety answering points (PSAP) to upgrade the Computer Assisted Dispatch software systems and infrastructure that can now receive text messages.

Ferreira added that the 911-texting service was made possible through the coordination and collaboration between PSAP, government and the public industry.

“It’s quite a breakthrough and a game-changing announcement that’s being made today to serve our community at-large and to better help our first responders do their job,” said Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “As the governor talked about, it is about extending access and closing the gap and providing service for those who are hearing and speech impaired in this technological age.”

There’s no question, she said, that this technology will help to save lives.

“It is providing for those who may be victims of domestic violence or facing an active shooter situation where a phone call is not possible,” Gabbard said.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said he is proud that Hawaii is one of the first states in the nation to implement the life-saving service.

“There are many people who will benefit from the ability to text 911,” he said. “I applaud all of those who worked together to bring text-to-911 to Hawaii, especially our Kauai representatives.”

Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry added that Hawaii’s Enhanced 911 Board has worked hard to bring the service to the community.

“Our gratitude goes out to all of those who played a role in making this service possible, most especially our dispatchers, who have the difficult job of coordinating our emergency response,” he said. “The public is reminded that those who can call 911 should, as calling 911 is a more efficient way to get emergency assistance.”


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