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CNET News Video: Ready for Text-to-911? Not all 911 call centers are

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CNET News Video: Ready for Text-to-911? Not all 911 call centers are

1:48 /

On May 15, major carriers will give people the ability to text to 911. The problem is many emergency call centers aren't set up to accept texts. CNET's Sumi Das and Jessica Dolcourt examine the issue.

[MUSIC] [MUSIC] [INAUDIBLE] At this California Highway Patrol Communications Center, one of the state's busiest, operators answer about 4,000 911 calls daily. [INAUDIBLE] At this California Highway Patrol Communications Center, one of the state's busiest, operators answer about 4,000 911 calls daily. [INAUDIBLE] What is your name? [INAUDIBLE] What is your name? And in the near future, they'll respond to 911 text messages too. And in the near future, they'll respond to 911 text messages too. Starting on May 15, the 4 major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile are voluntarily making it possible to send a text message to emergency services. Starting on May 15, the 4 major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile are voluntarily making it possible to send a text message to emergency services. But not everyone can text to 911 right away. But not everyone can text to 911 right away. 911 centers in your area must be able to handle the text messages. 911 centers in your area must be able to handle the text messages. And many aren't ready. And many aren't ready. There is a whole lot of technological hurdles underneath the surface that people don't think about all the time. There is a whole lot of technological hurdles underneath the surface that people don't think about all the time. Unlike phone calls to 911 which are basically given priority, this text message is not given priority at this point. Unlike phone calls to 911 which are basically given priority, this text message is not given priority at this point. While texts to 911 will make a significant difference for the hearing and speech impaired, and in situations where placing a call is dangerous. While texts to 911 will make a significant difference for the hearing and speech impaired, and in situations where placing a call is dangerous. 911 operators say calls provide information that texts don't. 911 operators say calls provide information that texts don't. We'll get it to the officers that are out there that say, you know this person is you know, a crying, screaming, you know, citizen. We'll get it to the officers that are out there that say, you know this person is you know, a crying, screaming, you know, citizen. We're not able to get much because they're under a lot of stress. We're not able to get much because they're under a lot of stress. We have a location, this is what's going on that we can hear in the background. We have a location, this is what's going on that we can hear in the background. Operators say callers rarely offer all the pertinent details initially, and need to be prodded for more information. Operators say callers rarely offer all the pertinent details initially, and need to be prodded for more information. You know for us, it will be the street, the cross street, an address, the city, the county, whatever information we can gather. You know for us, it will be the street, the cross street, an address, the city, the county, whatever information we can gather. If it's a car, we'll want the color, make, model, license plate numbers. If it's a car, we'll want the color, make, model, license plate numbers. Which is why calling will remain the preferred way to contact 911 for now. Which is why calling will remain the preferred way to contact 911 for now. In San Francisco, I'm Sumi Das with CNET.com for CBS News. In San Francisco, I'm Sumi Das with CNET.com for CBS News. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] [INAUDIBLE] At this California Highway Patrol Communications Center, one of the state's busiest, operators answer about 4,000 911 calls daily. [INAUDIBLE] At this California Highway Patrol Communications Center, one of the state's busiest, operators answer about 4,000 911 calls daily. [INAUDIBLE] What is your name? [INAUDIBLE] What is your name? And in the near future, they'll respond to 911 text messages too. And in the near future, they'll respond to 911 text messages too. Starting on May 15, the 4 major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile are voluntarily making it possible to send a text message to emergency services. Starting on May 15, the 4 major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile are voluntarily making it possible to send a text message to emergency services. But not everyone can text to 911 right away. But not everyone can text to 911 right away. 911 centers in your area must be able to handle the text messages. 911 centers in your area must be able to handle the text messages. And many aren't ready. And many aren't ready. There is a whole lot of technological hurdles underneath the surface that people don't think about all the time. There is a whole lot of technological hurdles underneath the surface that people don't think about all the time. Unlike phone calls to 911 which are basically given priority, this text message is not given priority at this point. Unlike phone calls to 911 which are basically given priority, this text message is not given priority at this point. While texts to 911 will make a significant difference for the hearing and speech impaired, and in situations where placing a call is dangerous. While texts to 911 will make a significant difference for the hearing and speech impaired, and in situations where placing a call is dangerous. 911 operators say calls provide information that texts don't. 911 operators say calls provide information that texts don't. We'll get it to the officers that are out there that say, you know this person is you know, a crying, screaming, you know, citizen. We'll get it to the officers that are out there that say, you know this person is you know, a crying, screaming, you know, citizen. We're not able to get much because they're under a lot of stress. We're not able to get much because they're under a lot of stress. We have a location, this is what's going on that we can hear in the background. We have a location, this is what's going on that we can hear in the background. Operators say callers rarely offer all the pertinent details initially, and need to be prodded for more information. Operators say callers rarely offer all the pertinent details initially, and need to be prodded for more information. You know for us, it will be the street, the cross street, an address, the city, the county, whatever information we can gather. You know for us, it will be the street, the cross street, an address, the city, the county, whatever information we can gather. If it's a car, we'll want the color, make, model, license plate numbers. If it's a car, we'll want the color, make, model, license plate numbers. Which is why calling will remain the preferred way to contact 911 for now. Which is why calling will remain the preferred way to contact 911 for now. In San Francisco, I'm Sumi Das with CNET.com for CBS News. In San Francisco, I'm Sumi Das with CNET.com for CBS News. [MUSIC] [MUSIC]

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