(Photo by Flickr user Paul Sableman, used under Creative Commons license)
Maryland will introduce a new service that allows emergency 911 calls to be sent via text message in the coming months.
The state’s Board of Public Works approved a $2.4 million contract on Wednesday for Annapolis-based TeleCommunications Systems Inc. to begin implementing the service.
It’s a tool that will allow deaf and hard of hearing residents to make emergency calls, and an upgrade for an emergency system that was developed in the 1960s.
According to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, the system will allow SMS texts of 160 characters to be sent to 911. No photos or videos can be sent. The system is designed to open up another communication tool in an era when more than 70 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones.
It also provides accessibility for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The FCC has recommended using a TTY device if no such service is available.
“We are thrilled to welcome this public safety tool for Maryland’s 1.2 million deaf and hard of hearing residents, those with a speech impairment, and anyone in an emergency situation where a voice call would be dangerous or impossible,” said Kelby Brick, Director for the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
The system was piloted at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick County since 2015. The agreement with TeleCommunications Systems Inc. is a “master contract” from the state, which clears the way for each of the state’s counties to get access to the technology.-30-
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