N.J. may require emergency call centers to accept text messages

Every 911 call center in New Jersey would be required to accept text messages if a bill advanced by an Assembly committee becomes law.

The primary sponsor of the legislation is Assemblyman David Rible, a former police officer in Wall Township.

“Let’s face it. Kids today don’t even know how to make a phone call sometimes because it’s all about texting,” he testified Friday during a committee hearing. “So I think we have to understand and from my law enforcement background people who get in a very scared situation, they go to what they know. So they know texting, they’re going to go to texting rather than making a call.”

Texting could be better than voice emergency calls in cases of domestic violence, Rible said.

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The director of governmental affairs for the National Emergency Number Association agreed, saying that being able to communicate silently with 911 would be a big help in certain circumstances.

“Think of the victim of domestic abuse who can’t be making a call to 911 because it might place him or her in jeopardy,” said Trey Forgety. “Think about the child hiding in the closet while an intruder is in the house needing to get help there quickly.”

County public safety officials voiced support for the measure during the hearing, but cautioned that a phone service surcharge intended to fund system upgrades to allow 911 text messages needs to be dedicated for that purpose.

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