Bakersfield's emergency call centers are preparing equipment to receive 911 texts in future

4 cell phone carriers to relay texts by May 2014

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - There are a growing number of people who attempt to text 911 in an emergency, especially among the younger generation.

Over the last several years land lines have been replaced by the use of cell phones. In recent years many cell phone carriers say text messaging has been has been the preferred form of communication for many of their customers.

"I barely use my cell phone to talk anymore, I only text my friends. So if I was in an emergency I would think to text 911 first instead of calling," said Stacey Johnson, a student.

In fact, according to an ABC News report, when a gunman was prowling the halls of Virginia Tech University in April of 2007, during a shooting rampage that left 33 people dead, dozens of students and staff sent text to 911 to try to get help.

But those texts were never received, because the local 911 center -- like most across the country -- could only handle basic phone calls.

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced that the nation's four largest wireless carriers have agreed to relay text messages to 911 call centers by May 2014.

However, not all 911 call centers will be able to receive texts.

The emergency call center in Bakersfield is in the process of upgrading their equipment to be able to handle 911 texts in the future.

In the meantime, most major cell phone carriers will provide an automated response that tells texters to call instead.

The FCC says texting 911 could be useful when a phone call could put the caller in danger. Additionally texting could also aid a person with disabilities who is unable to call.

Some government officials are wary of texting downside, however, and suggest trying to stick to the old fashion way first.

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