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Md. Offers Residents Option To Contact 911 By Twitter And Text Messages

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Talk, text or tweet– callers to the state’s 911 system will soon have many more options to get help.

As Gigi Barnett reports, the multi-million dollar upgrade will put state troopers on the cutting edge of technology.

Life-threatening calls that pour into the state’s 911 center come by phone, but now there’s a new way to reach out for help: texting or even tweeting 911.

“There are so many different calls coming in for more important matters so maybe the texting will help them reach them faster,” said Jennifer Drayton.

The new system is called Next Generation 911. State police bought it for about $7 million. With it, troopers who handle about three percent of Maryland’s crime calls will have more technology to track crime and deliver help.

“So if they’re on a cell phone traveling down the highway, we can actually follow that cell phone down the highway and make sure we give the fastest and best response for that citizen,” Michael Roosa, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said.

Right now, most of the state’s police barracks don’t have an automated answering machine. Operators turn to old-fashioned 10 digit numbers to receive calls.

Some say texting may clog the system and calling is still the best option.

“They already don’t answer the phones enough times, how are they going to get to reading the text messages instead?” said Christopher Drayton.

“I don’t Twitter and I don’t tweet and I don’t text, so I just use the phone and talk,” Paul Westenkirchner said. “I like that better.”

The state plans to test its texting system first. The Eastern Shore will receive the program next year and then by 2014, every other call center across the state will be able to receive texts for help.

The Next Generation 911 system can also respond to video uplinks and Facebook.

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