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Assembly Approves Conaway, Benson & Pinkin Bill to Allow Residents to Text 911

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Daniel Benson and Nancy Pinkin to enable residents to text 911 in an emergency was approved Thursday by the Assembly.

The sponsors said the ability to text 911 will be a vital service for New Jersey residents with communication disabilities and in emergencies where an individual is unable to talk or must be discrete.

“Some emergency situations require a less obvious call for help,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “It can be especially vital in domestic violence situations, or situations involving children and seniors. Expanding existing law to include the option to text 911 will protect more residents in more emergency situations.”

The bill (A3461/3544) would require 911 service facilities to be equipped with a system for processing requests for emergency services sent via text message. Under the bill, 911 service facilities must be equipped with a Next Generation 911 system approved by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services within three years following the bill’s enactment. A Next Generation 911 system is an emergency 911 system that allows for the processing of electronic messages, including, but not limited to, electronic messages containing text, images, video, or data.

“Almost everyone communicates by text these days,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “It makes sense that a person should also be able to call for help too. This will also help those with speech and other communication disabilities to more easily access these life saving services.”

“Enacting this legislation would allow for more lives to be saved,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “911 systems must adapt to current trends in order to be the most effective in emergencies.”

The bill would also increase the 911 System and Emergency Response Fee by 10 percent. The increase could only be used to fund the 911 service facilities with the enhanced Next Generation 911 systems. The fee increase would lapse after a period of 36 months following its imposition.

The bill was approved 52-21-1 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.