RI prepares for next generation of 911

The E-911 Call Center at Rhode Island State Police in North Scituate.

Tucked in a back room at Rhode Island State Police headquarters is where most 911 calls come first.

Dispatchers take calls and transfer them to police, fire or rescue closest to the emergency.

Karen Carlson, assistant supervisor for the day shift, has worked here for years.

"I started when the agency started in 1988," Carlson said.

Carlson has seen several transitions, including the addition of cellphone calls. She isn't surprised emergency text messages are on the horizon.

"We have a generation of people today and that's all they do is text," Carlson said. "My sons don't call me. They text me. That's the way they communicate now," Carlson said.

It's all part of a transition from legacy 911 to New Generation 911.

"We're both excited and nervous. It's the new technology that will allow people to text 911 in addition to voice calls," said Gregory Scungio, co-director of Rhode Island E-911. "We're not sure what effect that will have on our call volume. So that's where the nervousness comes in."

Rhode Island hopes to start accepting texts by the end of the year or at the start of 2015.

Texts won't be the only updates. Down the line, dispatchers will also be able to accept images and video from cellphones.

On Tuesday, the FCC's David Furth visited the call center to discuss what regulations are needed to help make Next Generation 911 a success.

"We regulate the service providers -- the carriers -- that you and I would to use if we were in trouble and had to call 911. We regulate their provision of 911, and we want to make those rules make sense from the state and local perspective so they actually help to make the system work better," Furth said.

He also spoke with a joint commission at the State House about it.

The commission is looking at whether these new updates mean local emergency services should consolidate.