East Texans share thoughts on texting to 911

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Lupe Yates has been a 9-1-1 dispatcher for nearly 22 years. She can't imagine adding another thing to her job.

"You have to answer this 911 phone, plus you've got all our other lines ringing, our radio traffic, now we're going to have to pay attention to a text message that's coming across our screen?" Yates said.

Nearly 70 percent of 911 calls are made from mobile phones.

Right now, you can not text message 911, something the FCC wants to change.

The commission announced they will initiate a "Next-Generation 911 Proceeding" in December.

"I really don't know what to think right now," Yates said. "We don't know how it will work, how we're going to get or receive the text messages or how we're going to respond."

It's designed to help, but Yates has her doubts about the idea.

"If people are going to abbreviate, if they are hurt or bleeding and they're in a hurry, you know how when you text messaging you could misspell a word, and then it's up to us to figure it out," she said.

Right now dispatchers at the sheriff's office have language line where they can get an interpreter over the phone if they need to, but they worry how they will compensate for the language barrier when it comes to text messages.

East Texans even have mixed feelings about the FCC's plans.

"Absolutely, I think it's a great idea," Nick Gilbert said. "Text messaging 911, anyway to get in touch with anyone if you're having an emergency I think is a great asset to anyone."

"I'm 59 years old and I don't do texting and so it wouldn't do me no good to text anyway," Luther Barrow said. "I would just as soon dial 911 and then you know if you're really hurt, how in the world are you going to text?"

"Because you're going to need the procedures and you're going to need help," Dana Burleson said. "911 is the main thing because if you don't have 911 what are you going to do?"

Yates says there's a lot of unknowns and if it does come through, they'll deal with it.

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