- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Some Baton Rouge-area residents soon will be able to seek help in an emergency with a text message, rather than having to speak directly with a 911 dispatcher.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1xVNnKh ) East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge parishes call centers are still working out the kinks in their text messaging systems, but officials hope to launch new texting networks by Aug. 1.

The upgrades come as texting becomes a go-to mode of communication for a growing number of people and as emergency call centers across the country roll out text-to-911 services.

“It’s a real benefit for the hearing-impaired and people in emergency situations where they’re not able to talk,” said Matt Hobson, East Baton Rouge Parish communications district manager. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The federal government last year set a Jan. 1 deadline for all cellphone carriers to support texting to 911 dispatchers. The Federal Communications Commission, however, does not require emergency call centers to accept texts, which can require costly upgrades. That’s created a patchy network of text-friendly areas.

Nationwide, about 200 dispatch centers in 18 states - 2 to 3 percent of the thousands of such centers in the U.S. - offer the service, according to the FCC.

In the Baton Rouge metro area, four of the six parish 911 districts surveyed said they do not have plans to add the service in the near future.

Those include Ascension, Livingston, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes. Most say they are taking a wait-and-see approach on the emerging technology.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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