Five cities are testing a new national 911 system that would allow communications with police and other emergency personnel by text message and take advantage of technology to pinpoint accident scenes, USA Today reports. Call centers in Rochester, N.Y; Bozeman, Mt.; King County, Wa.; St. Paul; and Fort Wayne, In. began testing the Department of Transportation’s Next Generation 9-1-1 system in June with the goal of replacing the four-decades-old technology that governs how the nation’s 6,000-plus 911 call centers operate.
Under the new system, emergency personnel could more quickly pin down the location of a call from a wireless network. 911 call centers would be more uniform and networked so that a call to a busy or incapacitated 911 center could instantly be routed to another center acting as a backup. The government has spent $5.6 million on the Next Generation 9-1-1 project, mostly on research. The tests will end in November, and the data will go to a joint Transportation Department/Department of Commerce National 911 Office. It could take 10 years for all the nation’s 911 centers to upgrade to the new technology.