Texting service set for launch

The county is launching Text-2-911 service on April 13, which will allow people to send a message to emergency dispatchers instead of having to call. We talked with county 911 director Mike Watkins about the new service and how you can use it:

What is Text-2-911 and how does it work?

Text-2-911 is a new platform that allows the public to contact a 911 PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point/dispatch center) utilizing text messaging instead of the traditional voice call.

This is brand new technology. The state of Indiana is one of the few states in the country that currently offers it. You would text 911 like you would a regular number.

This message is then routed to a PSAP based on the cell tower it hits off of. The message is then displayed on a screen at a call taker’s position inside the 911 Center.

The dispatcher can then message back and forth with the caller.

What are some scenarios where it would be advantageous to text 911?

Emergencies involving the hearing impaired and/or those who are unable to speak. Some scenarios would be domestic violence when a voice call can’t be placed without endangering the caller; a robbery when a voice call can’t be placed without endangering the caller; or a situation where the caller doesn’t want the suspect to know they have contacted 911 or are unable to talk.

What are some of the drawbacks of texting 911 compared to calling?

The time it takes to communicate back and forth; the amount of information that can be gained quickly; on voice calls the dispatcher can a lot of times pick up on background noise, voice inflection, etc. to help determine what is going on in an emergency. With Text-2-911, you lose this ability.

What is some key information you would recommend people send in their first message?

Their location and nature of their emergency.

Those are the key pieces the PSAP needs to know to start getting help. Their name also would be helpful.

Will people be able to send photos or short videos to dispatchers?

Not at this time. This might be a possibility in the future with upgrades; however, right now it is not.