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Tennessee Plans ‘Text-to-911’ Trial

If the trial is successful it can lead to the transmission of photos, videos and other data

Tennessee will conduct a statewide text-to-911 trial that—if successful—can eventually lead to the transmission of photos, videos and other data that will help improve emergency response, says U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) is conducting text to 9-1-1 trial service with AT&T to provide emergency 9-1-1 “short message service” (SMS) text messages from AT&T wireless subscribers to be received by Tennessee 9-1-1 call centers, known as public service answering points (PSAPs).

The trial will use the state’s new Emergency Service IP Network (ESInet) and Network Tennessee (NetTN), which is a contractor managed Internet, video conferencing and other Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity system, which are key components in the state of Tennessee’s Next-Generation 9-1-1 plan.

“In today’s mobile environment, it’s vital that Tennessee’s public safety infrastructure keep pace,” said TECB Executive Director Lynn Questell. “This trial with AT&T will build upon efforts to modernize and enhance our emergency communication network, leveraging new technologies to serve our citizens and work to ensure their safety,” she said.

While dialing 9-1-1 by phone remains the primary and preferred method to contact public safety agencies, the text to 9-1-1 trial will enable PSAPs in Tennessee to begin receiving 9-1-1 SMS texts from AT&T wireless subscribers through the state’s ESInet, AT&T says. The trial will allow PSAPs to develop best practices and methods to receive and integrate these types of emergency communications in the future, the company says.

In addition, the trial will utilize concepts and designs from key industry groups working on text to 9-1-1 standards and will leverage the National Emergency Number Association’s (NENA) i3 standards and recommendations.

Tennessee is the latest state to conduct a text to 9-1-1 trial, according to Genachowski. Such trials are already under way in Iowa, Durham, North Carolina and Vermont, he says. However, the Tennessee trial is the largest to date in terms of the population covered, and should provide valuable information that will help us to ensure that text-to-911 increases public access to help in emergencies and enhances the ability of 911 authorities and first responders to provide life-saving services, he says, adding, “text-to-911 promises to provide significant benefits for people with hearing and speech disabilities and for the general public.”