(WBIR-Rutledge) The term "next generation 911" is now a reality for several East Tennessee counties.
"This is the brains behind the 911 telephone system," said Randy Hoht, the Grainger County 911 director pointed out the new computer that will control how emergency calls are answered, called "Zetron."
"It's a big project; we're just getting started," Hoht added. "We just rolled out the last big piece of equipment today."
The new computer has the capability to not only answer phone calls, but text messages too. It meant a lot of training for dispatchers.
"We have to learn how to text and the terminology," Hoht said. "Old folks like me don't know the terminology."
He said there are benefits to having text messages over a traditional phone call in an emergency.
"Mountains and cell phones don't work good together. You can send a text message and it has less bandwidth versus a call," he said.
However Grainger County, or any Tennessee 911 system, cannot activate that text service right now. Knox County E911 has a similar system.
"We obviously have to wait for them to test everything before they promote it, and once (the state) announce it, then we follow suit," Alan Bull with E911 said.
Hoht agrees, saying while they have the capability to accept the messages, the technology is not perfect. They can't track the the exact location of a text in an emergency.
"With that message, there's no guarantee because 90-percent of our calls do not come in with the correct latitude and longitude," Hoht said.
In May, four of the nation's biggest cell phone carriers announced plans to cover 911 texts. So far, only individual towns and cities in other states have the service in place.