Emergency Services
3:38 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Text-To-911 Technology Exists, But It Hasn't Reached Kansas City

Emergency services in Kansas City aren't set up to respond to text messages, but they will be in the future.
Emergency services in Kansas City aren't set up to respond to text messages, but they will be in the future.
Credit Steve Bell / KCUR

It's going to take some time before Kansas Citians can summon emergency services with a text message.

The big four cell phone carriers announced this month they would offer text-to-911 capabilities to any local government wanting to use the technology.

"There's going to be a line," says Keith Faddis, director of public safety programs for the Mid-America Regional Council.

Faddis says MARC wants to bring the technology to Kansas City, but making sure emergency services are set up to receive text messages won't happen overnight. He says it's too soon to say when the transition will be complete.

Even after it happens, Faddis says the best way to contact 911 is with a voice call. That way, operators can hear the caller's tone of voice and any background noise, which helps them assess the situation. 

So far, just 16 municipalities and the state of Vermont have text-to-911 capabilities. The Federal Communications Commission requires cell phone carriers to send an automatic "bounce back" message to anyone who tries to text 911 in an area where the technology isn't supported.