The North Dakota Association of Counties have approved a contract to upgrade the state's 911 system so that cell phone users can sent a text message to emergency personnel.

The "Next Generation 911" system would allow a person to send a text message to 911 dispatchers if calling is not an option. Eventually, the system would also allow for photos and video to be sent as cellphone companies upgrade their equipment to allow for such messages to be sent.

This system is still in the early phases of being installed across the state. Currently, Fargo is the only dispatch office that can receive these messages. Anyone in North Dakota can still send an emergency text message. They will be received by the Fargo office, who would send the message to the appropriate dispatch center for action. As more offices complete their upgrades, the messages will be routed to the nearest dispatch center.

The Bismarck Tribune caught up with Mike Dannenfelzer, the manager of the Bismarck Burleigh Combined Communications Center. Mr. Dannenfelzer says that they are in the process of upgrading their hardware and software so this service can be handled locally. The plan is to have all the dispatch centers in North Dakota upgraded to the new system by mid to late summer.

This new 911 system would also allow TTY calls for the hearing impaired. The current system could only handle voice messages.

The cost for this upgrade is still under negotiation. The cost of this new system will be paid for from the local 911 fees your phone company already adds to your monthly bill. Jason Horning, the Project Manager from the NDAC, says that there will be no increase in this fee with the new system.

A public education campaign is in the works, and will roll out over the next couple of months as the new system comes online in more offices. One of the themes through this campaign will be "Call if you can, text if you can't"