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NJ innovates with text-to-911; Why not the rest of our region?

NEW JERSEY -- It's advice that's been ingrained in most people's memories for the last 30 years -- if you have an emergency, call 911. However, people who are speech or hearing impaired typically can't make a voice call.

Neither could many of the patrons of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, who hid in bathroom stalls to keep away from shooter Omar Mateen last June.

Many of them had to text relatives to call 911 on their behalf, and provide their locations, in order to get help. It did not come in time for many of the 49 people killed. That shortcoming, however, may have been eliminated in New Jersey on Wednesday.

All across the Garden State, in every county, texting to 911 directly is now a reality, thanks to cooperation by state government, the major mobile phone service providers and Rutgers University.

"There is perhaps no greater reason than public safety for government to keep pace with today's technology trends," said Dave Weinstein, New Jersey's chief technology officer, at a news conference in Piscataway Wednesday morning. "Every citizen now has an alternative, ubiquitous communication channel for interacting with emergency services personnel."

Every citizen, that is, in New Jersey, which has a population of 8.9 million. Similar in population are the five boroughs of New York City, which, like most of the rest of the country, does not have text-to-911 service.

"New York should adopt the same system," said a woman PIX11 encountered on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

She was among many marveling at New Jersey's innovation, which is only the second of its kind nationwide. Indiana and Hawaii have statewide text-to-911.