East Texas emergency officials say 911 text capabilities won't happen for a while

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A new push by the Federal Communications Commission has given people across the country the option to text their emergencies to 911 instead of call.

But as of right now, only 10 counties in Texas have the capability of receiving 911 texts and East Texas may not even have the option for another one to two years.

Van Bush, the Deep East Council of Governments' 911 director, said there are a lot of negative factors at play when it comes to texting 911.

"The down side to texting or SMS texting is it's what's called a best-effort service, and by best- effort service there is no quality of service on it; they can't guarantee a timely delivery," said Bush.

That's one reason why East Texas officials are hesitant to opt in to the service. A person in distress could send a text to 911 and it could be seconds, minutes or even hours before dispatchers receive that message.

There is an upside, however, to text to 911 and that's for the hearing and speech impaired.

"It's a big boom because they kind of felt like they didn't have access to 911 without going through a TTY service, so for the people who truly need it when it comes about, it will be a good thing," said Bush.

Now both Lufkin and Nacogdoches Counties have the equipment they need to have 911 with text, but officials said they're just not quite ready for it.

"The process to receive a text messages with the current legacy equipment that is still installed today that will be gone by the end of the year is very difficult and very time consuming," Bush said.

Now, even though they have the equipment they still won't receive your text.

"If you text 911 in this region today, you should get a bounce message pretty quickly telling you call 911 the text can't be delivered," Bush said.

East Texans still think it's a great idea.

"Overall, I mean any better communication with getting help like that, I say it is a good thing," said Standpipe Café employee, Stephen Harbuck.

"If some people are in an emergency, and they aren't able to talk at that time, I think texting would be a great help," Damien Reese, the owner of First Street Wireless said.

Again the text to 911 is not yet here in East Texas so if you do have an emergency, you need to call 911.

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.