June 10, 2009 By Jim McKay, Editor
The speech and hearing impaired in Black Hawk County, Iowa, will soon have the ability communicate via text message with a 911 operator during an emergency.
A team of vendors -- including Intrado, i wireless, Positron Public Safety Systems and RACOM -- demonstrated the technology during a successful pilot. The county is scheduled to go live with the 911 texting some time in July.
The ability to text to 911 operators will allow the hearing and speech impaired to communicate wherever they are rather than relying on special home technology or a relay center. Texting also is seen as beneficial to the population as a whole since it's becoming a means of communicating by so many.
"We do know of situations where people can't talk," said Barbara Vos, E911 program manager of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department. "They still want to be able to provide [texting] to everyone in the future, but this is a baby step. This is one carrier with one county that we're testing."
Vos said text messaging may fill a void but it's still not as efficient as picking up a phone and calling 911. "We know text messaging could have a delay because it's not sent instantly like a phone call."
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.