Six PSAPs in Kentucky just went live with text-to-911 services and more PSAPs will follow. Suzanne Larsen looks at why it’s so easy for Kentucky PSAPs to make the move.
When officials in Lexington, Kentucky, announced in mid-June that public safety answering points (PSAPs) in four counties — Fayette, Jessamine, Garrard, and Lincoln — could now exchange text messages with 9-1-1 callers, Lexington Mayor, Linda Gorton, called the move “a huge step forward in public safety.” Since that time, Marion County and Edmonson County also now support text-to-911 calls, and additional counties are expected to follow. All of these moves are possible thanks to some cooperative decision-making that started a decade ago.
A Key Decision in 2009 Is Paying Off Today
In 2009, the Central Kentucky 911 Network (CKy911net) was formed when a few forward-looking Kentucky counties realized that adopting common technologies and sharing the costs would help them address their challenges with aging equipment, new industry standards, and emerging communications technologies. The counties turned to Solacom and its partner AK Associates to help them make the transition to next-generation emergency call management.
Today, CKy911net is a consortium owned by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) and operated by LexingtonE911. Each member county pays a monthly fee based on its number of PSAP positions. CKy911net is constantly growing and currently includes PSAPs in 29 Kentucky counties with 92 call taker positions. Two additional counties in the state will join the network during 2020. When new counties are ready to join CKy911net, Solacom and AK Associates can easily scale the Solacom Guardian 9-1-1 Call Handling solution to support them.
Inbound and Outbound Text Capabilities Are Ready to Go
With the Solacom Guardian solution, CKy911net members can easily add inbound and outbound text capabilities whenever they’re ready. When we talked to Robert Stack, the Director of the Enhanced 911 Division in Lexington, he told us the team in Fayette County took to the new texting technology “like fish to water,” because the text capabilities are built into the same graphical user interface call takers use to manage voice calls.
“It was extremely easy to add texting to the Solacom platform,” he says. “There’s no major learning curve. We did one hour of web-based training with Solacom, but most of our training was to help our employees become familiar with the process. Our call takers practiced texting one another and responding and they practiced transferring text calls to neighboring Jessamine County. The only feedback I’m getting is it’s just simple and easy. Our people have adapted to it extremely well.”
Outbound Texting and Canned Messages Are Crucial
One of the biggest benefits Director Stack points out is the ability for call takers to send text messages to 9-1-1 hang-up calls from wireless phones to confirm the caller’s situation. He also notes that pre-scripted, “canned” text messages such as “This is Lexington 9-1-1, what is the location of your emergency?” allow call takers to accelerate text responses.
Today, the 9-1-1 team in Lexington uses the text-from-911 capability heavily, as Director Stack expected they would. And, he sees more ways the technology can be used. “In the future, I can see us using text-from-911 in situations where we need to reach out to people who are barricaded, or where we’re just not sure what their situation is,” he says.
Texting Is Relevant in Today’s World
One of the interesting facts Director Stack notes is that the TDD technology in the Lexington 9-1-1 center is used so infrequently these days, some call takers have not received a TDD 9-1-1 call in 10 or more years. While the center regularly tests the TDD system to ensure it’s working properly, Director Stack points out that “TDD is not the technology of choice for the deaf and hard-of-hearing anymore.”
The importance of supporting texting in emergencies was echoed by officials from the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Lexington’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition when the new service was announced.
Learn More About CKy911net
To find out more about how Director Stack and other Kentucky 9-1-1 leaders developed CKy911net and the benefits the IP network is delivering throughout Kentucky, read our case study.