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Text Calling 911: A Sign of the Times

I just read an AP story about the first 911 call center, located in the basement of the Waterloo, Iowa, county jail, that will accept text messages in lieu of voice calls. Black Hawk County police chief Thomas Jennings said "I think there's a need to get out front and get this technology available." Text calls would also be helpful for the county's deaf and hard-of-hearing residents according to Jennings. John Snapp, senior technical officer of Intrado, which upgraded the call center, said texting would be a useful supplement to voice calls, the traditional and still preferred method for 911 calls. Only county subscribers to i wireless, a local wireless carrier affiliated with T-Mobile USA, will be able to use the service, and only within Black Hawk County. Texts attempted on other carriers will get a reply saying they need to voice call, instead.A current drawback of text call option is that the location of the caller cannot be determined by the call center. Text callers will get a return text asking them for the city or ZIP code they're in. If the response corresponds to the Black Hawk County call center's area, the text message goes through to a call center position.

Texting has virtually replaced voice calls among the younger generation as the preferred means of communication. As they continue to enter the workforce they will accelerate the demise of the desktop telephone instrument, because many view it as a remnant of the last century. Office equipment mainstays of the 20th century that have virtually disappeared from the scene include typewriters, Telex/TWX terminals, and pencil sharpeners. It is not difficult to imagine the desktop telephone instrument joining them in the junkyard 20 years down the road when the last wave of baby boomers leaves the workforce.