WJHL.com - New 911 system allows text messages in an emergency

New 911 system allows text messages in an emergency

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When you need it, you want it to work.  911, it's what we are told to call when in trouble.  To make sure your 911 calls always get to a emergency dispatcher, 8 local emergency call centers installed a new system.  It's called Tennessee's Next Generation 911 Network (TNG911).

The new digital operator switch is paid for by the state of Tennessee.  911 centers in Kingsport and Bristol, along with those in the counties of Washington, Sullivan, Carter, Unicoi, Greene and Johnson, are all a part of the new network.

Sullivan County 911 Director Ike Lowry says what make the system special is it's ability to almost always have someone answer an emergency call.

"If our call center goes down, our calls automatically roll to Kingsport.  If Kingsport's goes down, they automatically roll to Johnson City, and so," said Lowry.

Lowry says with the new system, there is a very very small chance that your 911 calls will not be answered. 

"It's just an awful good backup for the citizens, to know that their 911 call is going to get answered," said Lowry.

Lowry says the digital system also gives dispatch the capability to receive text messages and picture messages to report an emergency.  However, Lowry says there is still testing underway with the text messages and it could be 2 years before that aspect of the system is fully operational.

Another great thing about the system, according to Lowry, is the ability to quickly fix any unlikely problems.  Lowry says phone companies get digital status updates on the system.  He says if anything is wrong, the company can login to the network and fix it within minutes. 

"The new system is totally digital and that makes for faster response and it also makes for quicker repair if there is a trouble," said Lowry.

Lowry said the state of Tennessee is looking to make all call centers a part of Tennessee's Next Generation 911 Network.  He says statewide changes could be complete in the next year. 

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