Greensboro Assistant City Manager Wesley Reid, who was the Guilford Metro 911 director for over 10 years before being promoted this year, still oversees 911 operations and said he thinks the addition of texting will be a real asset to those in need of emergency assistance.
said Guilford Metro 911 staff have been working on providing the service for a while.
"We've been soft-testing for a month and a half," Reid
said that, when the state got word earlier this year that the major carriers were ready for emergency texting, the NC 911 Board instructed counties across North Carolina to offer citizens the option.
said some counties were more ready than others.
"Every 911 center in the state is not created equally," Reid
said, adding that some are using legacy systems.
said the new service isn't yet available to those who don't use the big four phone providers, but the option to text using smaller carriers is expected in the near future.
"In the next phase, you're going to get your T-Mobiles and the Straight Talks," he
said it hasn't cost much to implement the new service, since many of the 911 infrastructure enhancements that make the texting possible were already part of an effort to upgrade the county's 911 system in other ways.
added that money for those upgrades largely came from the state.
According to Reid
, more changes are on the way in the coming years.
said that, in the future, Guilford County's
911 system - and others across the country - will also support sending pictures and video to 911, though that won't be available for a year and a half to two years according to most guestimates.
"You'll be able to send video and we can push that out to police," he
There are no plans to make 911 available through email as part of that next wave of enhancements.
Like Neal, Reid
said it is important for citizens to understand that it's always better to make a voice call to 911 if doing so is possible and doesn't put the caller in jeopardy.
"It's faster by voice if we can query back and forth," he
said the phone system is set up with cell carriers so that the 911 calls take priority over all other calls, but texts to 911 do not as of yet have the same priority status, which is another reason why voice calls are preferable in emergency situations.
"It's like if you texted your brother - there are going to be those same delays," Reid
said Durham County had a pilot program in which it implemented its system in 2012 and that system has seen fewer 911 texts than expected, but he
added that he
has a strong sense that texting will be used pretty heavily in Guilford County