Residents can now text message 911 during an emergency in Manatee County.
The new feature came just before U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, introduced new legislation Thursday that calls for the expansion of federal grant programs to assist state and local governments in moving to next-generation 911 systems.
While no formal announcement had yet been made, as of Oct. 17 the text message feature has been operational, according to Manatee County Emergency Communications Center Chief Jacob A. Saur.
Since taking command of the 911 center about a year, Saur said it had been one of his primary goals. The county has also explored their options already for next-generation 911 technology which Saur anticipates having implemented within the next year, although the county has not yet entered in contract negotiations with a provider yet.
The funding called for under Nelson’s bill would assist 911 call centers across the country to upgrade to next-generation technology that allows for people to text message 911 as well as send audio, video and photos during an emergency.
“Upgrading the nation’s 911 system is literally a life-and-death matter that must become more of a national priority,” Nelson said in an issued statement. “In this digital world, Americans must have more than one way to access the 911 assistance they need and expect when emergencies occur. No plea for help should go unanswered because a call center doesn’t have the technology to receive a text, video or picture.”
The new legislation will also require studies to be done in order to determine how to make 911 systems more resilient to natural disasters and other catastrophes, as well protect them from cyberattacks. In the days following Hurricane Irma, there were 29 emergency 911 call centers in Florida had impaired service and 14 call centers were completely offline, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
“The next generation 911 technology is so new, but we welcome the new legislation that gives us a pathway,” Saur said. “Manatee County, with or without that legislation, is moving forward.”
On Friday, the Manatee County Emergency Communications Center along with Emergency Medical Services and fire districts will be announcing a free mobile application, Pulsepoint, that allows for citizens trained in hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR, to be alerted when someone else in a public place is going into cardiac arrest.
The alerts will be sent through the application at the same time first responders are dispatched to the scene. Another feature of the application will be to tell citizens where the closest available automated external defibrillator, or AED, is.