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State to add text to 911 system

The state plans to introduce a new 911 system that will accept not only voice calls but also texts and other forms of communication, updating a system largely unchanged since 1968, officials said.

Next Generation 9-1-1 aims to improve the way information is transmitted between citizens and emergency dispatch centers, said Curt Wood, undersecretary for forensic science and technology in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

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In the current 911 system, state and local police dispatchers can only receive voice calls, Wood said. Additionally, if someone reports an emergency from a cellphone, the call is received by State Police dispatchers and then transferred to the appropriate local police department, Wood said.

According to Wood, the Next Generation system would ideally be able to receive information from a wireless phone and immediately transfer it to the appropriate call center “in milliseconds.”

Wood said the system would allow callers to supplement their 911 reports with photos, videos, and sound bites from the scene.

According to Wood, this enhanced technology would help create “situational awareness” for officers before they arrive on scene, providing for more effective service.

A unit of General Dynamics Information Technology will begin creating and implementing the system across the Commonwealth over the next two years, state officials said.

Charlie Plummer, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Information Technology’s IT solutions sector, said in a statement, “We are proud to support the Commonwealth as it delivers this critical public safety service to the community.”

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.
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